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Report calls into question the real priorities for Renew Atlanta/TSPLOST projects

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Complete streets projects and other infrastructure improvements are in jeopardy, due to funding shortfalls

A rendering of the complete street transformation on Juniper Street in Midtown.
Many complete streets projects, similar to this Juniper Street proposal, could be on the chopping block, as funds have dwindled.
Midtown Alliance

It’s no secret that Renew Atlanta and TSPLOST infrastructure improvement programs are severely underfunded, and that key projects will be knocked from the list of priorities.

Still, though, exactly how Renew Atlanta and TSPLOST officials will determine their final project lists remains largely uncertain.

Mid-February marked the last chance to participate in surveys that could help city leaders decide how to spend the roughly $540 million believed to be available for such projects.

But a new analysis published in Medium by Atlantan Audrey Parker might give some indication as to which projects could be funded—or kicked to the curb.

According to Parker’s report, factors of a project’s cost, readiness, and partnership funding have an 84 percent chance of predicting its potential as being recommended as a top priority.

Meanwhile, variables related to safety, equity, and mobility—which officials have said are of utmost importance—have a 58 percent probability of playing a role in the prioritization of the project list.

Audrey Parker, via Medium

Using data from Renew Atlanta and TSPLOST documents, Parker ranked nearly 100 proposed projects as “low-equity”—which make up more than half of all projects analyzed—or “higher-equity” and found that “projects with higher equity scores tended to have higher costs.”

“The equity score is the fraction of the project passing through regions identified as ETAs, or Equitable Target Areas,” she wrote.

Incidentally, higher-equity projects also tended to have lower readiness ratings.

“Of the high/very high readiness projects, over two thirds were low-equity projects, and only one sixth (16 percent) of higher-equity projects were rated high/very high for readiness,” Parker wrote. “However, about 35 percent of the higher-equity projects fell into the medium readiness category.”

Audrey Parker, via Medium

Essentially, in the eyes of Renew Atlanta and TPLOST officials, she asserted, low-equity projects are cheaper and easier to accomplish.

Parker added that just 21 percent of higher-equity projects have partnership finding, whereas 42 percent of low-equity projects do.

In conclusion, Parker believes her analytics can predict “with much higher accuracy whether a project is funded knowing the project readiness, matching funding levels, and project cost than using the safety, equity, and mobility scores.”

Audrey Parker, via Medium

Granted, she understands her limited study has a considerable margin of error, and that her analysis does not necessarily represent how officials will map out the final funding plans.

What this could mean for widely desired “complete streets” projects mapped out in the earlier Renew Atlanta and TSPLOST project lists is still up in the air.

Nevertheless, Parker said a previous public meeting regarding city officials’ “rebaselining” efforts indicated that complete streets projects are “much more difficult” to implement than resurfacing projects—a notion sure to enrage many an Atlanta urbanist.

Said Parker: “This is a fundamental problem: It is easier to engineer for the status quo than for anything else. For Renew Atlanta, that is happening at the expense of safety, equity, and mobility.”