Transportation aspects of Braves deal are many
by Ron Sifen
November 16, 2013 11:53 PM | 3402 views | 12 12 comments | 59 59 recommendations | email to a friend | print
We have all been bombarded with emotional reactions about the deal to move the Atlanta Braves to Cobb County. Let’s objectively evaluate a complex set of issues without trying to justify any pre-set agenda.

• I think the Braves and Cobb County have reached a real deal. However, until the Braves sign the contract, there is nothing that prevents the city of Atlanta from continuing to negotiate and explore ways to convince the Braves to stay in Atlanta.

• At the same time, I believe the Braves really are fundamentally dissatisfied with the Turner Field site, and happier with the Cumberland site.

• I hope that Cobb County has negotiated a sufficiently long-term commitment to protect Cobb County from the Braves leaving before Cobb’s investment can be justified.

• Cobb County is funding approximately $300 million. Are there direct or indirect tax consequences for Cobb taxpayers? Regardless, if a large portion of the $300 million is coming from a hotel motel tax that can only be used for this kind of a project, then this use of the funds may be appropriate.

• The economic impact really should be large and real. However, Cobb County will have significant additional costs. Cobb will collect additional revenues from the increased development and other increased economic activity. Will the increased revenues completely cover the county’s increased obligations? We probably won’t know for sure until we either have to pay higher taxes or not have to pay higher taxes.

• The Braves can reduce the impact on rush-hour traffic by scheduling night games during the week to start at 7:35, and not 7:05. That won’t eliminate impacting rush hour traffic, but it will significantly reduce the impact.

• The I-75/575 managed lanes project will significantly help Cobb traffic, even with the Braves. The new diverging diamond interchange for Windy Hill will also be a huge (and cost-effective) improvement for traffic flow.

• GDOT may need to speed up the Revive285 project for the top end of I-285, which runs from Spaghetti Junction all the way to both Cobb Parkway and Windy Hill Road. Both Alternatives 4 and 6-A are good alternatives. (As I have said before, Alternative 6-B is bad.) The Braves deal probably makes Alternative 6-A the best choice for Revive285.

• How does the Braves deal impact the Cobb Parkway BRT transit proposal? If Cobb County finalizes the Braves deal, some sort of transit project will be needed. That still does not mean that BRT is the right answer, but BRT is more justifiable if the Braves deal is finalized.

• This does not justify light rail or MARTA rail. The BRT as currently conceptualized can provide roughly equivalent service to rail at a dramatically lower cost to operate and maintain than rail.

• If Cobb is going to build a “fixed guideway,” Cobb should change the route to add a loop along Windy Ridge to Circle 75 Parkway and back to Cobb Parkway. This would enable BRT to stop at the stadium. Only one BRT lane is needed on this loop. The loop would run one way. Both northbound and southbound BRT vehicles could enter the loop on Windy Ridge and come out of the loop on Circle 75 Parkway, and then continue in their original direction. Or the loop could run the other way and all northbound and southbound BRT vehicles could enter the loop on Circle 75 Parkway and come out on Windy Ridge.

• A few weeks ago, the Braves were talking about running a Maglev line from the Georgia State MARTA Station to Turner Field. If the Braves really were interested in Maglev, the Braves deal may be an opportunity to reopen the question of whether a 21st century technology like Maglev or High Road would provide better service than 20th century BRT, at a lower cost to taxpayers, and with fewer adverse impacts to businesses.

• The Federal Transit Administration would have to agree to provide funding for a 21st century technology. Cobb could set up a demonstration project connecting Cumberland Mall, the Galleria, and the Performing Arts Center. Cobb would have to convince the FTA to support this, based on the demonstration project. Cobb DOT Director, Faye Dimassimo is probably the right person to persuade FTA. I continue to be wary of a huge investment/commitment to 20th century technology when we may have a 21st century technology available that is superior and less expensive in the long run.

• If the stadium is going to be completed by the beginning of the 2017 season, there is a tight timeline. Five elected commissioners are going to have to use their best judgement to represent the best interests of the citizens of Cobb County.

Ron Sifen is president of the Cobb County Civic Coalition, however the views expressed in this column do not necessarily represent the views of that group.
Comments
(12)
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AmericanMale
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November 18, 2013
BTW, Ron, I think you'll find that BRT is NOT cheap when considering costs over a 30-year life cycle. And, isn't it essentially a fixed rail system when you place all of those concrete barriers to establish its dedicated lane? That is, you can't just reschedule its route like a bus.

BRT is not a good option over the long run.
AmericanMale
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November 18, 2013
I like the idea of a HighRoad loop (above all traffic) that connects the Franklin Road area to the new stadium and Cumberland-Galleria area. It would offer a lot of value to patrons and businesses at both ends, serving the events venue in the middle. It might even prove to be revenue positive! (But would that kill the deal?)
Cobb citizen
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November 18, 2013
I don't see how a new stadium for the Braves can be built in Cobb without expanding MARTA. Bus transportation is no equivalent to rail. The traffic is already bad and without the development of rail infrastructure and a clear study on the impact on traffic I would oppose this project.
KBuras
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November 18, 2013
I think we will find this to be a traffic nightmare. Rush hour traffic starts at 4pm and lasts until 7pm. Many days traffic on I-285 is backed up to Roswell Rd during rush hour. "They" couldn't have picked a worst place to build the stadium. That is probably the most congested area in the Atlanta area. Now I-75 southbound will also be backed up. Business owners will make a fortune but residences will pay the price.
Ron Sifen
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November 17, 2013
Clarification - I apologize, I should have stated this more clearly. I am not saying that I now agree with an expensive fixed guideway form of transit. I think the Braves justify re-evaluating transit needs, but again, even if a fixed guideway was now justified, we should be looking at the new 21st century technologies that could provide superior service with dramatically lower future operating and maintenance costs. However, it may also be that enhanced service similar to that recommended by Georgia Public Policy Foundation's Plan B would be the most cost-effective solution.
Harry Ballance
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November 17, 2013
My first thoughts on the Braves relocation to Cobb is "how will it affect my quality of life?" As a retiree on a fixed income, fixed even lower by the corporate greed of carpetbagger Delta management towards their pilots' retirement pension, I can only foresee increased traffic in and about my home and the contiguous community, as well as increased taxes to fund this grand profit making venture for Mr. Turner, his management group, and his baseball players. The property taxes will undoubtedly increase, as a reflection of perceived increased property values, which will be manifested in an increase in the prices of anything and everything sold in the Vinings/Smyrna/Cobb County area. All of which is to bring something into the area that I do not want; a continued diet of noise, increased traffic, and a significant amount of increased traffic. I consciously chose to make my home in Cobb County nearly forty years ago because it was a pleasant bedroom community and it was not fraught with the problems that "big sports" bring with it. Those who speciously argue that the costs will be borne by a "hotel" tax are somewhat analogous to an ostrich with its heads in the sand, as the costs incurred by the hotel guests will be passed along, for the most part, to those who live in the community through increased retail prices. Then, too, there is the intangible cost of the increased burden on the infrastructure that we, as Cobb citizens and taxpayers, must incur to support those who use them in a transient manner.

I am also concerned with the inordinate amount of waste that this venture will create. The "Ted", as the Atlanta Stadium is called, has only been in service since the 1996 Olympics; a mere seventeen years. I do not know the figures, but I suspect that it's construction costs are a long way from being paid. Regardless, in a time when many people are living in poverty, is it really wise to abandon, and subsequently demolish a structure that has only been so recently constructed? What a huge waste of money and resources.

I would ask the Cobb citizen and taxpayer if the cost to our quality of life is really worth the convenience of having this taxpayer money pit so close to our homes for the sake of being a few miles closer to the baseball stadium? I for one, do not think so. I can only wonder what the County Commissioners were thinking when they allowed this deal to get this far.



Best, Harry G. Ballance
Paul Richter
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November 17, 2013
Excellent article.

I think we need to emphasize that BRT is acceptable but not rail.
Agree with Ron
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November 17, 2013
Another winner from Mr. Sifen. Great column.
Thank you Ron
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November 17, 2013
I agree the game is just begun. The Braves coming to Cobb County will be good for Cobb County, if the right future decisions are made. Please keep us informed OBJECTIVELY.
anonymous
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November 17, 2013
this is the first article about the braves that wasn't a rant.
Mark890
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November 18, 2013
The statement "we probably won’t know for sure until we either have to pay higher taxes or not have to pay higher taxes" is simply not true. Economic growth due to other factors can cause the tax base to grow even if the stadium contributes nothing to this growth.
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