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50 percent support rail in town hall call

Photo by Jason Braverman

Photo by Jason Braverman

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Rail proposals got a boost last week when thousands of Gwinnettians offered support during a telephone town hall about a proposed transportation sales tax.

With nearly 150,000 households called, 20,927 participated in an hour-long chat with Chairwoman Charlotte Nash and Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson, the local representatives of a regional roundtable charged with culling a list of projects to be funded by the proposed tax, expected to bring in $7 billion in 10 years.

According to numbers released after the call, 64 percent of participants said they believe transit is critical to the long-term success of the region. (In all 10 of the town hall meetings, the number was nearly 71 percent.)

In a question about the local projects on the list, 50 percent of the respondents said connecting Gwinnett to Atlanta via rail is a more important transportation investment than the proposed extension of Sugarloaf Parkway from Ga. Highway 316 to Ga. Highway 20, which received 17 percent.

But during the call, Johnson referred to the rail connections as a "longshot," since it measured poorly in terms of deliverability, making it unlikely to be complete during the 10 years the tax would be collected.

During a meeting Thursday, roundtable members began the process of narrowing a 436-project list of $22.9 billion worth of projects. The executive committee asked transportation planners to cut the list in half, down to $11.5 billion, based on the potential to relieve congestion, deliverability, economic impact/job creation and geography.

Preparing for a vote on the tax next summer, the project list will be set in October.