Lee also originated the idea of BRT, a bus transit line that would start in Acworth and continue south to the Midtown MARTA station.
Since the BRT proposal is now listed as a “Tier 2” project, it can only be funded if SPLOST generates revenue more than the budgeted $750 million, and would still require board approval.
“Tier 1” projects are the first to be funded with SPLOST money. An example on the county’s wish list of a “Tier 1” project is improvements to Windy Hill Road.
Lee said the primary reason for the change is that an environmental analysis will not be completed by the time commissioners are expected to vote July 22 on whether to put a 1 percent SPLOST, expected to collect $750 million over six years, before voters.
“I could not move forward without knowing it would stand,” said Lee. “I needed the people to feel comfortable with a list we can deliver.”
The environmental analysis is a study done to show the economic and environmental impact on the community, and federal authorities have to sign off on the document before the project can proceed. Lee said the documents probably won’t be approved until September.
Lee also said most of the community wanted the BRT project to have its own separate referendum, another factor contributing to his decision.
About $72.5 million of SPLOST would be used toward the $494 million transit system.
With hopes that the BRT will have its own referendum, Commissioner Helen Goreham supported Lee’s decision for the priority change.
“I think it’s an appropriate plan and timing, and it will likely not get funded in tier 2,” she said. “I think it should hold until 2016 so it can have its own referendum.”
Commissioner Joann Birrell is completely against the BRT project and including it in the SPLOST.
“I’m not 100 percent sold on the need of the BRT,” said Birrell. “I don’t think it will pass if it is on SPLOST.”
Commissioner Bob Ott is also opposed to the BRT.
“I do not support it,” he said. “It’s got a huge cost of operation and is being used more for economic development than transit relief.”
Commissioner Lisa Cupid says that there is a need for transportation, but doesn’t know if BRT is the way to go.
“There’s a need to better integrate a mass transit into Cobb,” Cupid said. “Whether (the BRT) is the most economical is unclear. I think the project needs to be massaged more through the public because it’s still pretty unclear.”
The county staff had originally began with a list of needs and projects totaling $1.2 billion for SPLOST, but were able to cut back the budget to $750 million.
The county will receive about $526 million, or 74 percent of the revenues, and about $39 million is budgeted for county-wide projects. The remaining $185 million will be divided among the six Cobb cities in relation to the city’s population within the county.