Cobb, Gwinnett voters to decide transit tax on Nov. 5

(The Center Square) — Voters in two metro Atlanta counties will decide on a tax to support transit when they head to the polls for November’s presidential election.

On Tuesday, Cobb County commissioners voted 3-2 to place the 1% 30-year Mobility SPLOST on the Nov. 5 General Election ballot. Officials previously said a 1% SPLOST could generate $10.9 billion in tax revenue for the county over 30 years.

“We’re talking about 30 years, and can’t support binding boards,” Fox 5 Atlanta quoted Cobb County Commissioner JoAnn Birrell as saying. “Citizens, grandchildren – they’ll be paying that.”

County leaders plan to fund a $6 billion high-capacity transit project that includes bus rapid system with the tax’s proceeds. Cobb officials previously indicated they could seek to leverage additional federal dollars for the projects, which could cost $14.5 billion over 30 years, according to a presentation to the Atlanta-Region Transit Authority last week.

Across the metro region, Gwinnett commissioners voted 4-1 to approve a transit referendum for Nov. 5. If voters approve, the county would levy a 1% sales tax for 30 years, a plan county officials said could fund up to 75 transit projects.

County officials say roughly one in 10 (11%) of Gwinnetians live within walking distance of a transit stop.

The transit plan includes a connection to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, expanded county coverage by local buses, additional transfer facilities and an expansion of micro transit to provide countywide coverage.

Unlike previous plans, Gwinnett’s Transit Plan does not include heavy rail or an expansion of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority in the county, which voters have previously rejected. A transit expansion voters rejected in March 2019 included a proposed extension of MARTA’s Gold Line from its terminus in Doraville to the Jimmy Carter Boulevard area in Norcross.

“Efficient transit options and improved mobility are essential for our community’s growth, economic vitality and quality of life,” Gwinnett Transportation Director Lewis Cooksey said in an announcement.