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08/10/01 - GRTA & The GOVERNOR


COMMENT: The Governor’s accelerated road program (and spending of $.9 Billion of future years’ of Highway Money) is getting expedited treatment and not following the process. In fact, it ignores GRTA, a creature of Barnes himself. Another example of “What is good for the goose is NOT good for the ganderwhen it comes to Gov. Barnes. Open meetings, records and public process apply only to local governments and not to the Gold Dome activities of the Governor.

Wendell Dawson


The Atlanta Journal

Opinion August 10, 2001

Journal: GRTA can still get back on course
MEMBERS of the state's new transportation superagency are frustrated. The Georgia Regional Transportation Authority keeps asking whether projects designated by Gov. Roy Barnes for accelerated completion are going to undergo cost-benefit analysis. No straight answer seems to be forthcoming.

GRTA's executive director, Catherine Ross, offers mixed messages. The governor's office has been silent. The Legislature doesn't appear to want to get involved. We supported the creation of this new government body when proposed in the winter of 1999. Despite some initial hesitations about expanding government, we went along with the concept because of a clear need to coordinate across political boundaries.

As specified by the Legislature, GRTA was created primarily to tackle one job and one job only: traffic. It was to do that by coordinating across political juridictions to reach solutions to our mobility crisis. Get Fulton and Cobb counties' officials together, for example, to fix the Johnson Ferry Road disaster, a traffic snarl for almost 20 years.

Even though we continue to witness an anti-road bias among too many on the GRTA board, we still hold out hope this authority can pursue its original mission. Unfortunately, with every week that passes, there are signs that its usefulness is less and less likely. Culprit No. 1: a lack of information being disseminated to the GRTA board.

At the GRTA meeting this week, for example, board members were offered the updated 2002-2004 Transportation Improvement Plan, a slice of the 25-year Regional Transportation Plan. The updated plan included some of the governor's announced projects from his June 28 unveiling of his five-year, $.3 billion statewide transportation plan.

Problem is, the GRTA board was given no thorough explanation of the differences between the original TIP and what has been changed. Then came the first briefing for Barnes' transportation megaplan. Five weeks after the governor briefed the media, briefed the Atlanta Regional Commission, held a press conference and talked with legislators about his ideas, the GRTA board finally got its briefing.

GRTA can still serve a useful purpose. It can be the one government agency that bucks the tide of unchecked public policy by demanding cost-benefit analysis of every major state project. And it can insist on congestion relief --- not projects that may attract riders, but those that will immediately be utilized by people sitting on I-285 or Jimmy Carter Boulevard, for example.

We will continue to argue mobility, mobility, mobility in hopes that GRTA will, too. We must work toward relieving our emergency traffic crisis with investments based on solid cost-benefit analysis.