West Cobb: 'No Thanks' to TSPLOST
About 50 people gathered at Harrison High School to give feedback to legislators.
Those who gathered at Harrison High School Thursday evening at the TSPLOST public hearing had one word for both state legislators and county officials present: No.
“I don’t care how much lipstick you put on this pig. I’ll never vote for it," said Cobb native Fred Bagwell. The majority attending the information meeting about next year's Atlanta regional transportation SPLOST referendum said they oppose the penny sales tax.
Earl Smith, former Republican chairman of the Cobb Board of Commissioners, said he rejects a midtown-to-Cumberland rail line proposal contained in the project list of next year’s TSPLOST referendum. Smith, who lives in northwest Cobb on Mars Hill Road, called for more funding for road improvements, not rail.
“We are not a high-density city,” said Smith. “We’re not New York. We’re not Chicago. We’re not a western city where we are encumbered by water or mountains. We have plenty of land.”
State Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-West Cobb) and State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) hosted the TSPLOST town hall forum. State Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) also attended the forum. Cobb is expected to receive $1.18 billion in funding for projects if the TSPLOST passes. The largest line item is an $856.5 million price tag for light rail. If approved, that light rail could break ground in six years and be ready to ride in 10 years, said Faye DiMassimo, Cobb's transportation director who also spoke at the meeting.
Many residents in attendance live right around Harrison High School and said they want action taken on their side of town--not Cumberland Mall. “We’re concerned about getting people out of west Cobb,” said northwest Cobb resident Billie Dendy. “The folks out of Paulding are coming through west Cobb to get to 75. We have horrendous traffic."
Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews was also on hand and commented on how the legislative process works if Cobb residents want the TSPLOST list changed. Mathews serves on the Executive Committee charged with coming up with a list of projects to be funded by TSPLOST. This is the first phase of a projected long-term Northwest Corridor transit plan that would reach to Acworth. The final deadline for projects that will be placed before voters is Oct. 15.
"My e-mail box has been filled up from people supporting their own projects," said Mathews. "This list was not done without a lot of study and input, but it is a draft list." He invited residents to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org to give their thoughts on this list and other solutions to Cobb's traffic problems. "Remember, this is a long-term investment for Cobb County," said Mathews. "It's not just for today."
One of three supporters of the TSPLOST in the room was Michael Paris, president and CEO of the Council for Quality Growth. An east Cobb resident, Paris said Cobb can't continue to build lanes and lanes of roads. "We have to have alternative transportation," said Paris. "This is about the entire region--people can't isolate themselves and not recognize that Cobb is a dynamic part of the metro-Atlanta region."
Tippins asked those present to stand if they wanted to reverse Cobb’s ratio of projects from the proposed 85 percent transit and 15 percent road projects to 85 percent road projects and 15 percent rail. All but three persons stood up.