Hoping for Gwinnett Light Rail? You might be in luck. New bridges at I-85 and Jimmy Carter Boulevard in Norcross or at I-85 and Pleasant Hill Road in Duluth? You may have to wait longer.
A broad, “unconstrained” wish list of transportation projects has been vetted by the Georgia DOT and was delivered Wednesday (June 1) afternoon to the Transportation Investment Act Executive Committee with about 30 Gwinnett projects erased from the slate.
The committee, chaired by Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson, has the challenging task of putting together a final list for voters, who will make the ultimate call in July 2012 on a 10-year, one-penny sales tax for transportation projects.
Ten metro Atlanta regions submitted their "wish lists" in April. Gwinnett County, the Gwinnett Village and Gwinnett Place CIDs in conjunction with the City of Norcross proposed the five-phase light rail system from the Doraville MARTA Station to the Gwinnett Arena in Duluth. This stayed on the list.
Todd Long, director of Planning for GDOT, vetted the region's project suggestions before submitting the list of 445 projects to the committee members. Accompanying this article are Pages 30-34 of the list that contain the Gwinnett projects.
He chose to slash about 100 of the suggested projects and tack about 150 additional projects on, although doing straight math can be difficult in this case because some projects were broken up and some were merged.
Long passed on about 30 Gwinnett County projects including bridge replacements at Jimmy Carter Boulevard and I-85 and at Pleasant Hill Road and I-85.
Joel Wascher, communications director for the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District, said the decision was likely made because of the Diverging Diamond Interchange project already underway at the Jimmy Carter and Pleasant Hill bridges, both fully funded by local SPLOST money.
“Todd has some valid concerns about spending $3 million to reroute traffic, then turning around and replacing a bridge,” said Wascher. He added that, while understandable, nixing the replacement for now would mean crossing a project off the list that polls well with Gwinnett residents.
Jayne Hayes of the Atlanta Regional Commission said that some of the projects were taken out at this phase because they were better suited to the local portion of the funds, which shouldn’t be on the regional list. Others were taken out because they wouldn’t jibe legally.
Long also took off a Chattahoochee Greenway Trail from Abbotts Bridge Road to Suwanee; Phase 3 of the Western Gwinnett Bikeway, the Duluth Multimodal Transfer Center; Rogers Bridge reconstruction linking Duluth and Johns Creek via a pedestrian walkway/bike path; a Main Street Multiuse Trail and Streetscapes in Lilburn; and the Nash Street Extension project in Lawrenceville, among others.
Duluth requests left on the list included four-laning Buford Highway, currently two-lane, from Old Peachtree Road to Sugarloaf Parkway; six-laning Pleasant Hill Road, now four lanes, from Howell Ferry Road to the Chattahoochee River, a joint request with Gwinnett County; and improvements to Ga. Hwy. 120 from the proposed Hospital Connector to Hill Street.
The Executive Committee will draft a “constrained” list—whittling $22.9 billion in projects to a list that can be funded with the estimated $8 billion—by this August. After public comment, a final list will be due on Oct. 13, according to ARC officials.
Johnson said he thinks the changes made are on point, and now it is time for him to get to work. As the chair of the Executive Committee, Johnson will create agendas, organize, direct and act as a liaison—a role he said he feels comfortable with as a mayor. Ultimately, he says they will follow three principles when judging the projects against each other: Traffic mitigation, economics and, most of all, what the voters want.
“As a reminder, cost and deliverability are going to be key factors in the long-term success,” Todd wrote in his memo to the committee members.