In just a few weeks, the City of Atlanta will be putting a crucial question (again, sort of) to Atlanta voters: Should a $750-million, tax-funded program be approved to cover widespread infrastructure upgrades, ranging from smoother streets to new playgrounds, over the next five years?
To help illustrate what’s at stake for voters on May 24, city officials have released the lengthy list of infrastructure projects that would be covered by two bonds and a renewal of the controversial TSPLOST (Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) approved in 2016, which expired this year. They’ve also outlined methodologies for picking which projects made the cut.
One potential hurdle: The spotty implementation of the last TSPLOST program—and questionable decisions like building a notoriously expensive, futuristic serpent of a bridge over Northside Drive—have left even Atlanta’s most ardent mobility advocates with a love-hate TPLOST relationship, as Axios recently detailed.
Still, Atlanta is facing an estimated $3-billion infrastructure backlog. And whether it be improved sidewalks, bike lanes, paved nature trails, crosswalks, traffic signals, or bridge upgrades, progress costs money.
Which begs the question: Which way are you leaning on “Moving Atlanta Forward: 2022,” dear citizens the city?
The five-page project list contains general city-wide upgrades and projects that couldn’t be much more hyper-localized. For instance:
The long-planned Eastside Trolley Trail ($2.85 million), linking the BeltLine to neighborhoods such as Edgewood and Kirkwood, made the cut. Ditto for a fourth phase of the Proctor Creek Greenway ($4.5 million) near the city’s Westside Park—and another $4 million toward cameras in parks.
A BeltLine spur trail ($2.9 million) between two ongoing developments in Howell Station/Knight Park, west of Midtown, is included, along with a new parking deck and general upgrades at Chastain Park ($4.2 million) in Buckhead.
Elsewhere, the list covers: artificial turf fields at a rec center ($1.5 million) in Mozley Park. Road resurfacing and safety improvements on West Paces Ferry Road ($7.8 million) and widespread new traffic signals ($10 million). Ditto for improvements to rec centers and playgrounds all over town, from Grove Park to Reynoldstown and Chosewood Park, to name just a few localized projects from a list unanimously adopted by the Atlanta City Council in December.
At $61 million, the priciest line item of all is listed as the installation of new sidewalks on major Atlanta streets.
In the city’s announcement this week, the Mayor’s Office insists “the city has strengthened its internal capabilities to delivery projects on time and on budget,” and that the three ballot measures would be a sound use of public funds.
The TSPLOST program, for starters, is expected to generate $350 million for transportation projects, paid for with a 4/10 of a penny sales tax that would apply to most purchases in the city.
The other two bond measures (totaling $400 million) would tackle vertical infrastructure such as police facilities, fire stations, rec centers, parks and recreation facilities, and other transportation upgrades.
By far the largest piece of the TSPLOST/bond package pie—$460 million—would be channeled toward transportation infrastructure, per the city. For neighborhood-level projects not covered in the broader package, each district’s councilmember is expect to be allocated $3 million.
Program leaders expect to host several public education sessions on the tax measures throughout April and May, with dates and times still TBD.
For now, take a second to cast a vote in the unscientific poll below, and let’s see how Atlantans are feeling about all of this right now:
EDITOR'S NOTE: We're deploying a system upgrade today (good news) and open polls apparently won't carry over (not-so-good news). So we have to close the poll early. Apologies, but thanks to all who voted. These were the results after approximately 21 hours of voting: