Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A glimmer of hope, followed by more stupidity

It is pretty easy to just complain all the time. Reading Terminal Station, you might even get the impression that "blogging" is a synonym for "constant bitching". So I try to highlight the positive things going on in the city when I can. Sure, that isn't that often, but for once the Georgia Legislature did something that made sense - finally give MARTA complete control over its own budget:
The bill, which passed 39-9, would lift a current restriction in state law that limits MARTA to spending no more than 55 percent of its sales taxes on operating expenses.

The rest of the money has to go toward capital costs.
This makes me much happier than the news that the statewide transportation sales tax in the House includes funding for ridiculous $5 billion double decker underground highways connecting 400 and I-20. At first I freaked out and wrote a "omfg, wtf!!1" post. Luckily, I did not post it, and in light of today I read the actual bill that includes the double decker tunnels. The grand list of transportation projects in the bill is subject to this qualifier:
...prioritized based on the date of final permitting and approval by the authority
As I read it, that means that the DOT still has to approve the actual project. The projects on that list have no price tags - in fact DOT hasn't even studied the tunnel project. I'd be that if you added them all up, they'd amount to well over $25 billion, since the tunnel itself would cost one-fifth of the entire budget.

The list of projects on the bill seems more of a guideline for the areas the sales tax can be applied. I don't see any reason why DOT would agree to abrogate their power to decide what gets funding, which is what my initial reading of the linked CL implied. A project of that magnitude would still have to go through public commentary, agency approval, etc. So freaking out now is a bit premature - although that post I deleted was a wonderful rant I half wish I'd saved.

Still, the project's inclusion is another example of how tone-deaf and ass-backward state transportation leadership is. Remember that the sponsor of this bill, Vance Smith, was Speaker Richardson's choice for GDOT commissioner. I wonder who Richardson would appoint to the STA board if that restructuring bill gets passed? More than anything, the list of projects in his bill can be seen as pork-barrel sweeteners to get support for the bill, so if he ended up on a new board it would pretty much be business as usual for transportation funding.

I started this post out by saying I wanted to highlight the positive and not just complain all the time. Oops. One step forward, two steps back. Just like our state legislature!

h/t on tunnel story: dknowles

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