Fulton, DeKalb Mayors Push For Regional Transit Agency

ATLANTA --

Mayors from Fulton and DeKalb counties met Wednesday with lawmakers to push the idea of creating a regional transit authority in metro Atlanta.

"Having different transit authorities is almost like having different road systems that don't connect," said Roswell Mayor Jere Wood. "It doesn't do you a lot of good."

Specifically, the mayors are concerned that Fulton and DeKalb county taxpayers are funding MARTA, while other counties are off the hook.

"We need to create equity in funding, and we need to have local governance of this new transit authority to be created," said Wood.

Wood said he'd like to see MARTA eventually dissolved to become part of the newly created authority.

State Rep. Mike Jacobs, who chairs the MARTA oversight committee, said MARTA will always have to be a part of the equation.

"It is almost legally impossible to disband MARTA because MARTA has existing bond debt for which they are on the hook, and you can't put another agency on the hook for those bonds," said Jacobs.

Jacobs told Petchenik lawmakers and Gov. Nathan Deal are behind the concept of regional transportation, but he doesn't believe there's support to start from scratch.

"Adding more letters to the alphabet soup of transportation agencies is not something I think we should do," he said.

Jacobs said it's more likely lawmakers will attempt to retool the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, which was originally created for that purpose. Currently, Jacobs said the GRTA board consists of members appointed by the governor. He said a new version of the agency should include local and regional elected officials to provide more local control.

"GRTA's role would be to make the various transit operators, MARTA, Cobb, Gwinnett, work seamlessly together and also to plan new transportation projects," he said.

The DeKalb and Fulton mayors are asking lawmakers to pass a regional transportation bill before voters go to the polls to decide whether to continue a sales tax to pay for millions of dollars in transportation projects next summer. Governments across Georgia have submitted a wish list of projects for consideration on the ballot.

Jacobs said he believes MARTA infrastructure improvements should remain on the list for SPLOST funding consideration.

"If we do something like that, it's possible that we can alleviate the burden on Fulton and DeKalb counties and get other counties involved in sharing the burden for MARTA," he said.

Mayors Meet To Create Regional Transportation Agency

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