A PATH400 extension and a Perimeter Center trail network doubling as a possible future monorail or trolley line are among projects Sandy Springs wants to fund with a transportation sales tax that will go before Fulton County voters Nov. 8.

The city of Sandy Springs’ T-SPLOST projects logo.

The transportation special local option sales tax, or T-SPLOST, process is moving quickly on a short deadline. The five-year sales tax increase of up to 0.75 percent must be attached to a specific project list submitted to the county by May 30. Officials unveiled the possible project list at the May 3 Sandy Springs City Council meeting and announced two public meetings to be held May 11 and 12.

“We have a whole host of already publicly vetted projects” to choose from for inclusion on the list, Assistant City Manager Bryant Poole told the council at its meeting.

If approved by voters, the T-SPLOST could raise a projected $500 million to $600 million over five years county-wide, with about $101 million of that going to Sandy Springs based on its population, county Chief Operating Officer Todd Long told the council. That does not include the city of Atlanta, which has a separate SPLOST ballot question aimed at funding MARTA expansion.

Poole said the city would like to devote large amounts of the T-SPLOST money to basic roadway maintenance ($5 million) and sidewalk installations ($15 million). But there are also some unique big-ticket items on the city’s list, including the $5 million missing link of the PATH400 multi-use trail between Buckhead and a section that will be built on Pill Hill as part of the I-285/Ga. 400 reconstruction project.

Another item is a $5 million contribution to building Perimeter Center’s “Last Mile Connectivity” path network that Sandy Springs is jointly planning with the Perimeter Center Improvement Districts and the cities of Brookhaven and Dunwoody. The basic concept is a network of bicycle and pedestrian paths to ease car-free connections to local MARTA stations, and the T-SPLOST would fund that part. But the project also includes right of way for pairing the paths with some form of mass transit—maybe buses, maybe something more futuristic like a monorail or gondola cars.

Sandy Springs City Manager John McDonough, in an interview at the council meeting, gave some new details of the “Last Mile Connectivity” plan—including that it could produce an alternative transit “pilot project” relatively soon.

The request for proposals for a path plan consultant was just issued last week, McDonough said, and Sandy Springs is already budgeting $500,000 in the next fiscal year to “jump-start” planning by purchasing available right of ways. Officials previously said the study also would include a cost-benefit analysis of alternative mass transit forms. But, McDonough said, there actually will be a second RFP issued in about six to 12 months for sales pitches from alternative transit companies.

“This is the gondola, trolley, monorail [or other options]—what should this be?” McDonough said, adding that companies will be asked such questions as, “What’s your technology? Is it proven?”

“We’ll see, is there a pilot project to be had?” McDonough said, explaining that an alternative transit test route running up to a mile long might be possible.

Other T-SPLOST projects on the Sandy Springs wish list include:

  • Johnson Ferry Road/Mount Vernon Highway roundabouts: $25 million. The plan to replace the existing X-shaped intersection with roundabouts is stalled by a dispute over the historic status of an auto repair shop that the city must demolish for the project. Pulling out of federal funding and its more complex appeals process could speed up a resolution to the historic issue, Poole said.
  • A long list of “traffic operations improvements”: $20 million. Many of the projects are fairly minor items such as new roadway lanes and traffic signal timings. One bigger-ticket item is a realignment of the Roswell and Grogans Ferry roads intersection.
  • Mount Vernon Highway and Roberts Drive multi-use paths: $15 million. This would build the paths already approved in the city’s bike and pedestrian plan.

The city also proposes two other projects if there is additional T-SPLOST funding:

  • Hammond Drive widening design and acquisition (not actual construction): $15 million. The controversial project’s construction would still be more than five years away, Mayor Rusty Paul noted.
  • Flex-use shoulder lanes on I-285 westbound: $1 million. Express and shuttle buses could use the highway’s shoulder as a travel lane from Raider Drive to Cobb County in a project intended to mitigate future Braves stadium traffic. The state Department of Transportation would need to approve the concept.

The city has launched a special web page explaining the T-SPLOST. The community meetings for input on the local T-SPLOST projects are slated for Wed., May 11, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Heritage Sandy Springs, 6110 Blue Stone Road; and Thurs., May 12, 6:30-8:30 p.m., City Hall Council Chambers, 7840 Roswell Road, Building 500.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.