Seniors: ‘What about our needs?’
With all the talk about Fayette County’s road projects for the regional transportation sales tax list, momentum shifted briefly last week to address a critical need for the county’s future: transportation options for senior citizens.
At a public forum seeking input on the projects, one member of the audience suggested that some of the $43 million Fayette County and its cities will get if the tax is approved should be spent on expanding
the transportation program currently offered by the Fayette County Senior Services program.
County Public Works Director Phil Mallon said he thought that was a worthwhile idea to look at.
Charles Ware of the American Association of Retired Persons, said he was in favor of a proposed regional call center to match seniors with ride service providers in their area. He joked that the senior population “would like to be at the table, because we’re tired of being part of the menu.”
At this point, the local governments in Fayette County have not compiled a list of potential projects for that $43 million, which would be parceled out to each government over the 10-year length of the tax.
But Fayetteville Mayor Ken Steele said one project his City Council is considering for that funding is the extension of LaFayette Avenue to Church Street, which would provide a new east-west thoroughfare in downtown Fayetteville. Steele said he too would like to see part of Fayette County’s $43 million go toward developing a public-private senior transportation system for Fayette County.
The median age of county residents is already at 48.3 years, and that figure is projected to climb in future years, Steele noted.
Although there are no transit projects planned for Fayette County as part of the $6.3 billion regional sales tax, about half of the funding will be spent on bus and rail projects elsewhere, which has drawn some local criticism.
Peachtree City resident Bob Ross said the MARTA transit system alone has a backlog of $1.2 billion in maintenance projects just for its existing lines. He also claimed that the tax would generate a subsidy equivalent to $2,000 for each MARTA rider, which he feels is unfair to those who don’t use the service.
Meanwhile, transit supporters have argued that with the growth of metro Atlanta expected to continue on a rate of dramatic increase, the region can’t afford not to have some form of transit solution in place. Metro Atlanta is projected to grow by about 3 million people over the next 20-25 years, bringing the area’s population to about 8 million.
Another citizen asked the panel of government officials about why the sales tax includes money for bus service in Clayton County even though it was shuttered last year because it cost too much. The reasoning, it turns out, is that Clayton officials on the 21-member regional transportation roundtable have identified that as one of the county’s top priorities.
There was also a question about the penalties that were built into the legislation authorizing the regional sales tax. If for some reason the sales tax is defeated in the 10-county metro Atlanta area, Fayette and the nine other counties will have to pay a 30 percent match to state funding for local transportation projects, opposed to the current 20 percent level.
If the sales tax passes, however, the local match will dip to 10 percent, officials said.
The project on the list with the potential for the largest impact on existing traffic experienced by Fayette commuters would make improvements to the interchange of Ga. Highway 74 North and Interstate 85, just across the Fulton County line in Fairburn.
Peachtree City also has two cart path projects on the funding list: one running from the new Flat Creek path bridge northward toward Crosstown Road connecting to a number of existing businesses in the industrial park and the other running under Ga. Highway 74 South at a new tunnel before going north towards other businesses in the industrial park and south toward the city’s Baseball and Soccer Complex.
Other projects on the list for regional funding include:
• Construction of both segments of the East Fayetteville Bypass;
• Widening Ga. Highway 85 from Grady Avenue in Fayetteville southward to Bernhard Road in unincorporated Fayette County;
• Widening of Ga. Highway 92 from Jimmie Mayfield Boulevard southward to McBride Road in unincorporated Fayette County;
• Operational improvements on Hwy. 85 South from Bernhard Road southward to Hwy. 74 South;
• A newly-proposed “connector” between Hwy. 92 and Ga. Highway 138 North to link Fulton and Fayette counties; and
• Operational improvements on Hwy. 92 northward from Hwy. 85 in Fayetteville to Oakley Industrial Boulevard in south Fulton County.
There is a move afoot to add one more Peachtree City project to the list: the extension of MacDuff Parkway from its current terminus to Ga. Highway 74 via Old Senoia Road. That move has not yet been finalized, but it will result in the city of Fayetteville removing one of its projects from the list: the realignment of Hwy. 92 and Hood Avenue in Fayetteville.
Fayette County is tabbed to get some $141.8 million in project funding plus another $45 million that can be spent on any local transportation project for a total return of $186.8 million. This figure does not include the $22.5 million planned for the I-85/Hwy. 74 interchange or any other project outside of Fayette County.
Regionwide the tax is projected to pull in more than $6 billion in revenue over its 10-year lifespan.