During a recent town hall meeting at the Salem-Panola library, DeKalb County Commissioners Stan Watson and Larry Johnson announced that the Atlanta Roundtable Executive Committee, through the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) has allotted $225 million to fund bus stations from Indian Creek to Wesley Chapel.
During the 2010 session, the Georgia Legislature adopted HB277 and the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable was formed as a result. The I-20 rail corridor project is one of several transportation projects being considered by the Roundtable.
According to the Transportation Investment Act of 2010, “elected officials in each of the state's 12 regions will develop a list of projects to be funded by a one percent sales tax. Georgians will vote on the tax in the 2012 primary elections.”
Initially, none of the transportation projects for DeKalb County were included on the Roundtable’s list, but after protests from county officials, monies for smaller projects were added. However, funding for heavy rail in South DeKalb was not included on the list of projects.
Commissioners Stan Watson (Super District 7), Larry Johnson (District 3), and Lee May (District 5), whose districts would be directly affected if the rail project was excluded, each weighed in on the situation during the August 9 press conference.
“We have paid [our] one penny sales tax to support MARTA transit. We’ve been good, strong regional partners. We want to see our investment paid back to DeKalb County. It will take $520 million dollars to get heavy rail to Wesley Chapel Road and we should not be fighting for anything less than that," May said.
“We want to make sure that the I-20 corridor is respected and included," added Commissioner Johnson. "We believe that if we don’t have rail we cannot support an additional penny [tax].”
“We have been a key stakeholder in healthcare and in transportation”, said Super District 7 Commissioner Stan Watson. “We have invested our future and our dollars. This is a collective effort to say no to anything that doesn’t include the I-20 project.”
At the town hall meeting, Commissioners Johnson and Watson said that they and other county leaders would continue to present their argument about getting rail into South DeKalb to the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable. “We’ve got 60 days to get [an additional] $300 million”, said Johnson.
Community leaders, like NAACP DeKalb County Branch President John Evans, stressed the importance of the community’s role in the fight for getting rail to South DeKalb. “It’s politics, pure politics”, said Evans. “We have to rely on the citizens [of DeKalb County] to keep the pressure on.”
The Roundtable will meet on October 15 to make the final decision on the recommendation list of transportation projects for the metro-Atlanta region.