Apr 14, 2022 - News

TSPLOST gets grilled by Atlanta transportation advocates

Illustration of a bike with quarters for wheels.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

If you’re questioning Atlanta’s upcoming vote to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to build bike lanes and fix sidewalks, the city’s transportation advocates would like a word.

Why it matters: Atlanta’s facing $3 billion of needed infrastructure projects over the next 20 years, according to City Hall.

  • Infrastructure ballot questions tend to be popular — a recent poll commissioned by the campaign advocating for the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) says 66% of residents support the measure — but the last round of funding disappointed some residents.

Catch up quick: On May 24, Atlanta voters will decide whether the city should raise $750 million to chip away at its backlog.

  • $350 million of that cash comes from a 4/10 of a penny sales tax that would apply to most purchases made within the city. The sales tax would fund “horizontal” projects like bike paths, safer streets, and new bridges.
  • $400 million in bonds would pay for the “vertical” program — fire station renovations, rec center upgrades, plus some road overhauls like the second phase of DeKalb Avenue.

What they're saying: The last TSPLOST “over-promised and under-delivered, and in many cases failed to deliver,” says Reid Davis, a mobility advocate.

Carl Holt, another transit supporter, says he wants to vote yes so Atlanta can put up matching cash and compete for federal funding. First, he wants city officials to speed up the procurement process and show they can manage the program.

Civil Bikes’ Nedra Deadwyler, who leads bicycling tours of historic Atlanta to educate about city issues, questioned the fairness of the tax and the lack of city plans to address equity and affordable housing.

Yes, but: A new mayor and Atlanta City Council — six of whom are under the age of 40 — and the relatively new department of transportation deserve a chance to prove themselves, say Darin Givens and Lauren Welsh of Thread ATL.

  • “I trust them about 80% to not screw up the spending for projects,” Given says. “That's a high number for me.”

Rebecca Serna, the executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, says the organization is disappointed by the lack of progress on TSPLOST projects but funding is needed to build safer streets.

  • “It's very hard to advocate for projects that there is no money to build. So I don't think cutting off funding is the answer,” she says. “Holding elected and appointed officials accountable to build what they said they would build is the answer.”

The other side: The city rolled out a new website today to allow the public to review project lists. They'll hold public meetings this month and in May.

  • In addition, a city spokesperson says, the new DOT is part of the city's investment "in building its internal capabilities to plan, design and execute transportation projects."

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