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TSPLOST, Renew Atlanta funding estimated to be $410M below expectations

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As mayor pushes for change, bicycle activists worry that complete-street projects could be in jeopardy

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms last week launched an effort to arrange the TSPLOST and Renew Atlanta project lists in order of importance to account for a massive funding shortage plaguing both programs.

In 2015, voters approved the $250 million Renew Atlanta bond package.

The year after, they elected to adopt a 0.4-cent sales tax—the TSPLOST—that was slated to ultimately raise some $260 million over five years.

Unfortunately, however, the almost $1 billion worth of total projects outlined by the two programs are left with just about $530 million worth of funding, according to Saporta Report.

Officials say the shortage of project funding stems from a number of issues, including rising construction costs and the increasing scopes of plans underway.

Additionally, when voters okayed both public works programs some years ago, no one bothered to put the projects in order of importance.

Today, that means some of the plans will inevitably be underfunded or even dropped from the blueprints.

Officials with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition worry the “complete street” projects—efforts to safen roadways for pedestrians, cylcists, and people using other modes of transportation besides cars—are in jeopardy.

Streets Alive consumed Howell Mill Road in June 2017 as part of a Westside route that will be linked with a route to Decatur next year.
Atlanta Streets Alive consumed Howell Mill Road in June 2017 as part of a Westside route that will be linked with a route to Decatur next year.
Curbed Atlanta

But putting those projects back on track, said ABC Executive Director Rebecca Serna, is imperative to removing certain streets from the city’s High-Injury Network, a database “in which less than 8 percent of Atlanta’s streets account for 88 percent of fatalities and 52 percent of severe injuries.”

Most of the roadways included in the dubious network are located west of Northside Drive or south of Interstate 20.

“This is an opportunity for the mayor to deliver on Renew Atlanta/TSPLOST and restore public trust in the city’s capacity to build meaningful transportation projects,” Serna said in a prepared statement. “For years, Atlantans have invested their time to attend and give feedback at public meetings about Complete Streets, but instead of greater mobility, in return, they’ve gotten long delays.”

Bottoms wants to help shape the project list in a way that “will prioritize projects based on the safety, mobility, and affordability goals established in the Atlanta Transportation Plan,” according to a city-issued press release.

ABC spokesman Ben Foster noted that complete streets initiatives overlap with the guiding principles of the Atlanta Transportation Plan, which is going to city council for approval on December 3.

The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition also recently announced its largest-ever route for the recurring Streets Alive festival.

The “Cross City” route, which cyclists, pedestrians, rollerbladers, and others are expected to trek in June, begins in Decatur and takes people almost all the way to Buckhead—about 10 miles total.

That route “speaks directly to the kind of transformational projects at stake in the Renew Atlanta/TSPLOST prioritization process,” Foster told Curbed Atlanta.

It’s no coincidence that complete streets plans for Howell Mill Road and DeKalb Avenue bookend the 10-mile Streets Alive route.

“The action the city takes to prioritize Howell Mill Road and DeKalb Avenue Complete Streets projects,” said Foster, “will tell the people of Atlanta whether they are committed to safe, connected, and equitable transportation options or more of the same dangerous and confusing status quo.”