As we all know, it will not, and the excuse that the project list does not do everything we want is just that, an excuse to say “No.”
Fortunately for us, we do not need perfection but rather significant improvement; not sometime in the future, but right now. A “Yes” vote for the TIA (Transportation Investment Act) initiative will do just that.
If approved, there will be a 10-year, one percent sales tax to be exclusively used on regional transportation projects in the defined ten county metro region. After 10 years, the tax will end, and cannot be continued without another vote by citizens of the region. One hundred percent of the dollars raised will be spent in our region, and the TIA also includes citizen oversight to ensure that our money is spent wisely and as committed.
We Cobb Countians have never been people to say “no” to progress. Cobb has led the way on investing public tax dollars wisely. Whether it be the Bell Bomber Plant, water and sewer, local schools, The Galleria and Performing Arts Centers, or transportation, Cobb has led the way in Georgia. Cobb adopted the first TSPLOST in the State, and it changed Cobb forever (think Kennedy Interchange at US-75 and 285). Each of these efforts has been wisely managed and delivered on time and on budget. They laid the foundation to create the transportation system and economic growth that we have enjoyed in the past, but we are at a crossroads today.
Today, we now have the same kind of opportunity to continue this progress for our region if we vote “Yes” for the TIA. Remember, the TIA vote is about regional solutions for our pressing transportation needs. If approved, it will improve commutes for all by investing in major regional projects that will directly and immediately improve our transportation and transit needs now. Most importantly, Cobb will be the beneficiary of over $1 billion of the approximate $8 billion dollars that will be received from the tax. This tax is the cheapest and fairest way to ensure that all the named projects are built as proposed.
Cobb will see major improvements at Windy Hill Road and Interstate 75, Windy Hill and Highway 41, intersections along Highway 41 and Busbee Parkway, among others. Cobb will also receive almost $700 million to build the most efficient and modern bus system in Georgia and it will remain under local control rather than operate as part of MARTA. Without this financial support, we may well see the end of the popular and heavily used Cobb express routes to Atlanta.
Of equal importance to local governments, 15 percent of the monies raised by the sales tax will go directly to Cobb County and each of our six cities to use on local projects that county and city leaders have already identified. This will amount to almost $175 million for use by Cobb County and our local municipalities to address their transportation needs.
Yes, if approved, the TIA will also be a boon to our economy. It would create thousands of jobs in the contracting and transit industries. More importantly, the improvements made by the TIA will continue to keep our region a destination of choice for major new businesses and help keep Georgia’s best and brightest of the next generations right here.
Finally, the TIA vote is about us. Are we willing to invest in ourselves in order to deal with one of our most daunting challenges — transportation?
There are those who will say that the list of projects is not to their liking. Given that view, no project list will ever be to their liking, because any list that has to be approved by citizens of a 10 county region is going to be a compromise. While not perfect, the proposed list of projects was the result of a year-long bottom up process. It will be no different in 2, 4 or 6 years, the problem will only be worse.
If we want to improve traffic now and build for a brighter economic future, vote “Yes” on the TIA. Cobb has always been a leader, and it can continue to be so today. Vote “YES” for the TIA and start improving transportation now!
Chuck Clay is a Marietta attorney and former member of the Georgia State Senate.