A regional roundtable of politicians came up with a transportation plan that calls for spending $856.5 million for a light rail line from Cumberland Mall to the Atlanta Arts Center MARTA Station. That soaks up the lion’s share of what Cobb would get from the proposed 10-year, one-cent sales tax.
There’s considerable disagreement among the citizens concerning the priority given mass transit, judging from reaction across Cobb County. But judging from what the roundtable people are saying, it’s their way or the highway.
This has been made quite clear by one of Cobb’s roundtable members, Mayor Mark Mathews of Kennesaw. As the Journal reported last week, he said critics of the mass transit priority seem to assume “that if Cobb County were to adjust the amount of funding that it currently has toward transit, that it would automatically be reassigned and be allotted back to Cobb County for road projects, and that is clearly not the case.”
Mathews said Cobb was “pretty fortunate” just to get a plan that returns about 97 cents on the dollar of the tax money generated by the county. He also said if an attempt was made to get the roundtable to reduce the transit project funding, “that money would quickly be gobbled up somewhere else in the region by a transit project.”
So the roundtable wants that money to be spent on mass transit somewhere in the region. Mathews and fellow roundtabler Cobb commission chairman Tim Lee went along with the Cumberland-Atlanta rail line, showing that they buy into it as Cobb’s overriding need — gobbling up most of the $1 billion expected to be collected in this county.
Mathews let the cat out of the bag when he said, in effect, it’s too late to do anything about scaling back or reordering priorities. As a member of the five-member executive committee of the roundtable, he would have needed only two more votes for a majority when the rail line project was approved.
Now, however, the project list goes to the full 21-member roundtable where Mathews and Lee apparently wouldn’t get nine other votes even if they wanted to change Cobb’s projects. And both said they want to hear more feedback from Cobb folks after getting an earful of opposition at a town hall meeting last week.
Lee said afterward there’s a lot of time to get more input “that might change the entire flavor” of what was said at the meeting. Mathews said he was “getting mixed reports from everybody in Kennesaw. Obviously, if you listen to people in Kennesaw State, they want it.”
It seems the real question in all this is whether it matters what Cobb people have to say. It seems the die has been cast in favor of giving priority to mass transit in the TSPLOST, regardless of what the popular sentiment may be.