Price tosses cold water on Fed help talk for light rail II
by Jon Gillooly
jgillooly@mdjonline.com
September 28, 2011 12:00 AM | 4695 views | 16 16 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell) has thrown cold water on the claim that a federal government handout will pay for a rail line from Cumberland Mall to Acworth.

Rail supporters including Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews; Atlanta Regional Commission Chairman Tad Leithead, who also chairs the Cumberland Community Improvement District; and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed have a very specific answer to critics who say the $856.5 million earmarked for Cumberland-to-Midtown rail won’t serve the majority of Cobb’s needs since it ends just a mile within the county.

True, funding in next year’s tax referendum stops the rail line at Cumberland. But a second leg from Cumberland to Acworth — estimated to cost $2.1 billion by Cobb Department of Transportation Director Faye DiMassimo — could be paid by the federal government, they say.

However, Price, who chairs the House Republican Policy Committee and sits on the House Committee on Ways and Means and the House Budget Committee, said he doesn’t believe it is realistic to bank on federal dollars paying for the second leg of the line.

“I’d be surprised if those resources were there,” Price said. “I think we need to be smarter about the state rail that we’re thinking about.”

Price said it’s clear the state needs regional or statewide funding for transportation infrastructure, which has been allowed to stagnate over the last decade or two. However, “the finite nature of federal monies right now and the absolute necessity that we get our house in order at the federal level is going to require a prioritization of all of the money we spend federally,” Price said, adding that “the ability of the feds to step in and say, ‘OK, here’s the check,’ is going to get less, not more. I just think it is more realistic to plan in a way that relies much more on local, regional and state resources as opposed to federal resources.”

State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) said as a leader in the Republican-controlled U.S. House, Price knows what he’s saying.

“That is the clearest statement yet, and it ought to be the death knell for that particular project on the list come Oct. 15,” Ehrhart said. “Note to Tad Leithead and the Cumberland CID: Get the memo.”

Ehrhart said Price’s comments should also satisfy Cobb Board of Commissioners Chairman Tim Lee’s oft-repeated comment that if Lee can’t get a clear indication from state government that it plans to fund the rail project moving forward, Lee won’t support it.

“So that ought to not only satisfy Chairman Lee, but hopefully (Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews) as well that that project needs to no longer be on the transportation improvements list, and I hope that will be the case,” Ehrhart said.

Lee and Mathews represent Cobb on the 21-member roundtable charged by law with finalizing a transportation list by Oct. 15.

Ehrhart said rail supporters argue that federal dollars will pay for the second leg because they don’t have anything else to support the project.

“They have nothing else other than this fantasy,” Ehrhart said. “It won’t stand up on the facts. It’s the rail line to ‘no end.’ Instead of the bridge to nowhere, it’s the rail line to ‘no end,’ because it won’t be built on time. It won’t be built under budget. Those kinds of projects never are. And it won’t be done until 2024.”

Ehrhart mocked a recent poll on the proposed tax conducted by Atlanta media, which he says avoids asking the specific questions in favor of generalities.

“Why don’t you ask the question to the people in Cobb that 85 cents of your transportation dollars is going to one project, that’s public transit that goes a mile into Cobb and won’t be done until 2024?” Ehrhart said. “But they won’t ask that question. They just ask, ‘Do you want some kind of transportation that will relieve congestion?’ Of course you’re going to get a positive. They don’t want to know. That goes back to that fantasy if you don’t have the facts, we’ll create a fantasy and hope that it might get there. And that’s what it is. For Tom Price to say that, that ought to stake it through the heart.”

Mathews said there still might be avenues for funding the line’s second leg.

“I don’t know enough about it to really make a comment on it, but the information we’re getting is from the Federal Transit Administration that it would be a very good New Starts Project, which is one of the programs they have for new programs,” Mathews said.

Mathews said he isn’t suggesting that Price is uninformed.

“He knows very much what he’s talking about, but I think there’s a lot of stuff that is up in the air right now, and there is a lot of speculation on what will be cut, what could be cut, but until something is actually cut we really don’t know where we stand,” Mathews said.

Like Ehrhart, state Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb) called Price’s remarks “right on target.”

“Everybody wants to get the deficit under control, so that means you’re going to have to stop spending or cut way back on spending in a very aggressive fashion,” Tippins said.

To rely on federal dollars to pay for a Cumberland to Acworth line is overly optimistic, Tippins said.

“My Mama always had a saying,” Tippins said. “She said, ‘Son, don’t count your chickens before your eggs hatch.’”

Tippins explained why rail supporters are making the argument about federal funding.

“They want light rail, and they will make any argument that they can to try to sell it and put it in its best light,” Tippins said.

The west Cobb senator referenced the county’s “Alternative Analysis Study” on transit, which won’t be finalized until Feb. 2013, long after voters head to the polls in July to determine whether they want to tax themselves for ten years.

“They say this study is an absolute necessity to get federal funding, if you get it,” Tippins said. “But I’ve also been told there is a reasonable possibility that this study could come back and say that bus rapid transit may actually be more serviceable and reach more people than a fixed rail line because of the flexibility of buses that fixed rail does not have. I mean, when you look at the population as spread out as it is and as low density as we have, it’s just hard for me to see where a fixed rail line is going to make a whole lot of sense.”
Comments
(16)
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Butter Bean
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September 29, 2011
Just vote NO to T-SPLOST and be done with it.
AHF
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September 28, 2011
I have personally spoken with Mark Matthews when he served as Bill Borden's campaign manager and walked away from that conversation amazed that he was able to get elected as Mayor. Here we have Tom Price trying to gently and politely help him from looking like a fool and yet the fool bites the hand that tried to help him and then plows full speed ahead toward the iceberg. This whole rail line proposal stinks of secret promises and contracts and deals.
RedBoard
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September 28, 2011
@ SG68:

"...stop listening to Fake DiMassimo, Tad Lighthead at the Cumberland CID and Pancho Villa Garcia at the Cobb Chamber."

Now THAT'S funny. I don't care who you are. Good material, SG.

SG68
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September 28, 2011
Tom Price is only trying to provide a reality check to those in our midst that have deluded themselves into believing federal funds will continue to flow into projects like this.

Let's see if Tim Lee has enough sense to grasp the potential life saver that Congressman Price has thrown to him.

Don't count on it. This guy is as dumb as a bag of hammers!!

Why else would he agree to give $857M of Cobb taxpayer money to the City of Atlanta and MARTA so they can extend a rail line from Arts Center to Cumberland and get absolutely nothing in return except some landing lights at McCollum Airport.

Tim, do yourself and the Cobb taxpayers a favor, stop listening to Fake DiMassimo, Tad Lighthead at the Cumberland CID and Pancho Villa Garcia at the Cobb Chamber and turn your one good ear toward Congressman Price.

He is trying to help you out.

Oh yeah and as for Makers Mark Mathews. He is beyond dumb so I won't even waste my time addressing his arrogant attitude.

Predisposed
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September 28, 2011
Every presentation I've seen on this project has shown a bias or predisposition toward Light Rail. Faye is the Project Manager and that is what she wants. So a conspiracy theorist would say that the Alternatives Analysis study will be a formality and be 'molded' to show that Light Rail is the best alternative.

My question is whether the study will take into account the West X Northwest project that the Governor has now signed off on and is going to bid. If it is included in the AA, you can bet that BRT will be a much faster option, can be implemented several years sooner and will cost a fraction of the $850m set aside in TIA for the Light Rail.
We are doomed
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September 28, 2011
Well, either MM is ignorant or corrupt. Which is it? Why is he bent on pushing this lite rail through? Does he have his hand in the cookie jar?

anonymous
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September 28, 2011
RE: “He knows very much what he’s talking about, but I think there’s a lot of stuff that is up in the air right now, and there is a lot of speculation on what will be cut, what could be cut, but until something is actually cut we really don’t know where we stand,” Mathews said.

And it's "thinking" like that makes for a good government hack.

Mathews is either the biggest idiot or the biggest liar. Was he ever on the Cobb EMC board?
can't believe
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September 28, 2011
I Can't believe what I am reading. Is Mark Mathews that stupid?? I feel sorry for the people in Kennesaw.
Liar Liar
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September 28, 2011
Mark Mathews, why don't you just call our Congressman a liar!!!! Mark Mathews only thinks he's smart, what a dummy.....I think Congressman Price knows a lot more than you. Congressman Price has forgotten more than you will ever know!! You are a disgrace to the office!!
anonymous
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September 28, 2011
RE: "Mathews said he isn’t suggesting that Price is uninformed."

Surprise! That sure IS what he is telling everyone else that suggests that this rail line does not add up.

Old Timer
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September 28, 2011
As much as I think it would be wonderful to have rails going all over Atlanta through every town and shopping center. It is not affordable for us at this time. Atlanta is much more spread out, we are in love with our cars, and this will not be workable. Most of the money will go to Fulton and Dekalb Counties. Management of all the money will be Marta that has not done a very good job at all. I just do not think it is a good use of our tax dollars.
mk-1.8 million-gone!
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September 28, 2011
The DECISION to push this 'study' through,.. & grant to Croy Engineering,.. who then spreads the wealth throughout the county to companies that will help w/ this so called study,.. in itself needs to be investigated.

The night of the vote, Bob Ott recused himself from this all important vote because one of his family members will be involved w/ this so called study.

1.8 MILLION is an ABSURD ammount , to study whether rail or bus service would be best along Cobb Parkway.

1.8 MILLION could have gone a LONG WAY making CCT a more efficient bus system.

The MDJ is now reporting that Smyrna Senator Doug Stoner does work for Croy Engineering.

Not sure if he has a vote on the roundtable or not,but he sure has been out touting the importance of the Arts to Cumberland rail, has been at all the town hall meetings & has been photographed sitting at the round table!

We need an audit of every single DIME spent on this so called study!

This really gets my goat!!!
NtheNo
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September 28, 2011
Who didn't know the US Government is BUSTED and unable to continue funding these pet projects? Are our "leaders" that far out of the loop? They should derail the toy train idea....its over.
kennesaw voter
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September 28, 2011
Mathews has no clue what he is talking about....what a piece of work!!! At least Price and Tippins do. Mathews pack your bag and clean out your office you are headed home and take Tim with you!!!
FROM TEXAS
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September 28, 2011
Light rail needs to be called Obama Light this social is engineering at its best of the metro Atlanta area and putting all counties under the thumb of MARTA and the ARC. Look out suburbs your days are numbered and the “The Area 21 Agenda is big brother taking over for world order; that any Republican would adopt language submitting to the rule of the United Nations is un-American. Thank you Tom Price for coming forward to help the taxpayers that will be saddled with this boondoggle of a project they can’t afford.
RedBoard
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September 28, 2011
FINALLY ! Someone with much more power than Tad Leithead errantly dreams he has...steps forth and shreds the idea that the Feds will automatically pay for the segment of a light rail line needed to make the initial leg make any sense at all.

Nice work, Rep. Price !

I hope all the whahoos that have run around saying this nonsense about federal support now realize how foolish they look. Without a vehicle to fund the true Cobb County transit line, Leithead's hijacking of TSPLOST funds to please Kasim Reed and all of Tad's developer buddies now appears as the true joke of a billion dollar project (and heist from Cobb citizens) that it is.

Yes...we MUST have transit alternatives in Cobb, and soon. But these must be economic solutions. Light Rail "I" was never a viable alternative without Light Rail "II", and neither were financially or operationally wise. Both should...and maybe now will...die an unceremonious death. Thank goodness !

What are ya gonna say now, Tad, Mark, Tim, and Faye?
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