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Referendum discussion centers on public transit
by Bill Baldowski
bbaldowski@neighboprnewspapers.com
June 21, 2012 02:06 PM | 815 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If the $8.5 billion Transportation Investment Act referendum, scheduled to be on the July 31 ballot, is approved by voters, details of many projects earmarked for Clayton County’s approximate $62 million share of those funds, would then be revealed.

However, last Thursday, Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell joined vice chairman Wole Ralph, Commissioner Gail Hambrick and Clayton County Transportation Director Jeff Metarko in hearing the concerns of approximately 30 senior citizens attending a town hall meeting on the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and its impact on the return of transit service to Clayton County.

“It is so terribly important that the Clayton County Board of Commissioners hear from our seniors,” Bell said. “That is why I added two additional town hall meetings to the original agenda so our seniors would have a voice.”

Although many of the seniors asked about other projects related to passage of the referendum as well as the return of Clayton public transit, Ralph cautioned that it is somewhat difficult to actually determine now, 42 days before the vote, not only all of the projects involved but the extent of those projects as they relate to the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and the Georgia Department of Transportation. In addition to bus routes for public transit, those attending wanted to know how another project tied to passage of the referendum, improvements to Tara Boulevard, would be affected.

“These projects would be implemented by the regional transportation authority and the Georgia Department of Transportation,” Ralph said. “These agencies really can’t move forward with doing studies, which would cost money, or hosting public meetings, without knowing whether or not the referendum would pass.”

Another question regarding the referendum had to do with commuter rails and why Clayton County wasn’t approved for such a project.

“The Clayton County Board of Commissioners submitted a rail system project for funding, but we did not make the final list of approved projects,” Ralph said.

Although not many in-depth answers could be given due to the uncertainty of the referendum’s passage, Bell said this meeting was successful because the board heard, without a doubt, that seniors wanted public transit returned to Clayton and wanted walkable communities.

“I committed to the seniors that if they helped us to pass the transportation referendum, I would work tirelessly to see that their agenda was at the top of our list,” he said.

According to Ralph, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority is responsible for all administrative functions for transit-related projects of the referendum while the Georgia Department of Transportation is responsible for implementation for road-related projects.

In his address before the seniors, Metarko said that although the new public transit system would provide the same degree of service that Clayton’s former transit system did, it likely would actually duplicate it.

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