Residents throughout Fulton County were asked to choose what they thought was the single most important issue facing Atlanta in the Metro Atlanta Speaks Survey, and without much question, voters chose transportation as their answer. While Atlanta and the cities around it continue to expand and progress, the roads and transportation systems inside these cities have not, holding back the metro Atlanta area from its full potential. For years Atlanta has been notorious for its horrible traffic, infiltrating the streets and affecting all of its residents. With this issue in mind, the government has stepped in with alternatives that might steer Fulton County in the right direction. In the recent election, Fulton County voters have accepted tax raises that will be dedicated to the improvements of overall transportation and the expansion of MARTA in Atlanta.
Voters in the outskirt cities of Atlanta approved of 75% of a penny sales tax increase that will authorize projects meant to create and expand roads, bridges, sidewalks, signals, and others (T-SPLOST). The tax will begin in April 2017 and will continue until March 31 of 2022. The plan is to raise $655 million that will be distributed between 13 cities based on populations. Alpharetta will receive 11.02% of the revenue, which will sum up to an anticipated estimate of $72 million. In Atlanta, residents voted in favor of a 50% of a penny sales tax increase to fund MARTA expansions over the next 40 years, totaling an estimate of $2.5 billion and of a penny increase for overall road improvements and the expansion of the Belt Line totaling $300 million.
As each Fulton County city selects transportation projects that will benefit their community, Alpharetta plans to expand many congested roads that will facilitate commuting for a great portion of the AHS community. These include the addition of lanes in roads such and Haynes Bridge, McGinnis Ferry, Windward Parkway, Old Milton Parkway, and others. Furthermore, bike lanes and bigger sidewalks will be added to many streets including, but not limited to, Kimball Bridge, Webb Bridge, Bethany Road and Academy Street, as well as the streets previously mentioned. Greenway improvements and expansions are to be expected as well as congestion relief on the GA 400, although the solid plans are still undetermined.
In Atlanta, the largest expansion of rail in MARTA history will take place. Although it was previously meant to include the expansion into cities such as Alpharetta and Johns Creek and collect a total of $8 billion, the proposal was rejected, and kept only within the city. Regardless, MARTA is pushing for the train to extend its stations further north to Windward Parkway. The approved tax raise supports proposals such as 30 miles of light rail, expansion of MARTA all throughout the city and into the west along I-20, the purchase of new buses, introduction of new bus routes, and more frequent service overall. Moreover, transportation projects (T-SPLOST) will raise money to expand the Beltline, add hiking trails, sidewalks, streetscapes, and call for road and traffic signal improvement in the city.
Outside of Georgia, minimum wage initiatives were passed in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington. By 2020, the minimum wage in Arizona, Colorado, and Maine will be $12 while Washington’s will be $13.50. Recreational marijuana use in California, Nevada, and Massachusetts passed at the same time Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota passed medical marijuana measures. In Maine, a new system of voting called Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) was approved by voters, allowing them to choose candidates to state and federal government by order of preference, thereby eliminating the spoiler effect.
The years to come will be a big step for Metro Atlanta’s infrastructure and will aid to the expansion of the cities as a whole. With plans for bigger roads, more public transportation, and better operational systems, the cities can expect an initial discomfort, as construction takes place and roads get closed temporarily, but the end result will ultimately surpass the temporary inconvenience.
Photo Credits: Steve Kelley