Chamber hears Oden on T-SPLOST

Photo by Nick Viviani

Photo by Nick Viviani

CONYERS -- Chamber officials here are like a lot of local residents who are taking in all the information concerning the proposed 1 percent regional sales tax for transportation projects before making a stand on the issue.

The board of directors of the Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce last week heard Rockdale County Commission Chairman Richard Oden discuss the Atlanta Regional Commission's Plan 2040 and his support for the project.

Plan 2040 is a regional blueprint that seeks to accommodate economic sustainability and population growth in the metro Atlanta area over the next 30 years.

The proposal addresses several concerns facing the metro Atlanta region, such as land use, transportation, housing, economics, human services, green space and water and air quality as projections see the area adding 3 million new residents by 2040.

If the ARC approves Plan 2040, it will work in conjunction with the Transportation Investment Act created from state House Bill 277. The bill, which legislators approved in 2010, would create 12 regions across the state in which a 1-percent sales tax program to fund transportation projects across the region will go before voters. Voters will decide on the measure in a ballot referendum on July 31, 2012.

Oden said his support for both initiatives to the Chamber board by saying they will boost the local economy and attract new business with improved infrastructure.

"Supporting HB 277 sends a positive message to the ARC that Rockdale County is proactive and that we're a team player," said Oden in a statement released by the county. "Such a complex undertaking requires our support and participation in order to succeed."

Chamber President Mo Talley released a statement along with Oden from Wednesday's board meeting which acknowledged the need to address transportation in the region. "Doing nothing is a luxury that we cannot afford," he said.

Afterwards, Talley said it will only benefit Rockdale County to get involved as part of the largest population group of all the regions across the state. He supported Oden and Conyers Mayor Randy Mills for their continued representation of the community at the ARC level.

He urged everyone to get as much information on the Transportation Investment Act before making a decision.

"In this economic climate I do not think anyone wants to vote to pay more taxes. As my good friend (Rockdale Superior Court) Judge (David) Irwin always says, 'this is only about one thing, money,'" Talley said. "Just because the decisions are difficult do not mean they don't have to be made. We just need as much information as possible to try to make the right decision."

If voters approve the transportation sales tax referendum next year, a 1 percent sales tax in the 10-county Atlanta region is anticipated to raise about $8 billion over 10 years. Fifteen percent of the sales tax revenue will go to local jurisdictions to fund local transportation projects while the remaining 85 percent will fund regional transportation projects.

Rockdale projects, such as adding a non-access bridge over Interstate 20 east of Ga. Highway 138, reconnecting Old Covington Highway and Green Street under Ga. 138 and five others, are on the initial list of projects being considered by the regional Transportation Roundtable.

The list covers 436 projects with an estimated cost of $22.9 billion. The Roundtable meets on Thursday, July 7, to begin culling the project list down to a $6.1 billion list of projects for the 2012 referendum.

For more information, go to www.atlantaregionalroundtable.com.