Photo by Brian Giandelone
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Some controversial transit projects and a proposed extension to Ronald Reagan Parkway are off the list for potential funding from a regional transportation sales tax, according to a pared list released Thursday.
"There's really not any big surprises to us," Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said of Gwinnett's projects. "It's still twice or more the funding available and a lot of work to be done. ... I know how I'll feel when we get to the final list."
While public opinion for light rail seemed to be high in a telephone town hall meeting conducted last month, the plan for passenger service linking the Gwinnett Arena to the Doraville MARTA station was axed during a staff review of the $22.9 billion in wishes for the funding, which will be considered by voters next year.
Staff of the Atlanta Regional Commission cut the list in half by ranking the congestion relief potential and the ability to deliver the projects quickly, along with other measures. A regional roundtable's executive committee has about a month to cut the list in half again, down to the $6.1 billion the 10-year, one-percent tax is expected to collect for regional projects.
Still included on the list is $146.4 million for an extension of MARTA's heavy rail line from the Doraville station to Norcross, as well as $100 million for an analysis of "Interstate 85 north transit corridor alternatives."
"That keeps it rolling," Gwinnett Transportation Director Brian Allen said of the study funds, adding that he understood why the nearly $1 billion in light rail projects did not make the list. "It keeps the vision funded and moving toward our goal."
Many long-awaited Gwinnett road projects also made the cut, including two more phases of extensions to Sugarloaf Parkway, which would continue the road from where a current extension is being completed on Ga. 316 in Dacula north to Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, creating a loop around Lawrenceville. A total of $463 million made the list for two phases.
With a grade separation project on Ga. 316 soon to begin at Ga. Highway 20 and Collins Hill Road, the list contains a total of $121 million to continue the conversion of stop lights to interstate-grade separation through the county.
The creation of interchanges at Ga. Highway 324 and McGinnis Ferry Road's junctures with I-85 also made the list, along with the much-delayed widening of Ga. 20 in Sugar Hill.
Also on the funding list is $45.8 million for an extension of Satellite Boulevard from its current terminus at Buford Drive to Thompson Mill Road, while $257.5 million sought for an extension of Ronald Reagan Parkway to I-85 did not make the cut.
In Snellville, the nearly $20 million sought for improvements to the intersection of U.S. Highway 78 and Ga. Highway 124 is still in the running for the tax.
"Obviously, a lot of the major projects, we think, are still there ... but there will be another cut to this list," Allen said, adding that local officials would continue to work through the roundtable process.
Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson is chairman of the roundtable and the executive committee, and Nash is a member of the roundtable.
"The job of the executive committee and the roundtable is to determine the right blend of projects that will provide options to improve our commutes, get residents home to their families faster and provide and retain jobs for our region," Johnson said in a statement. "We are not just building a list of transportation projects, we are building the future direction of our region."