Finding better ways to move people around metro Atlanta was a leading topic of interest for mayors of suburban cities of Sandy Springs, Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Chamblee during a March 3 panel discussion of the Perimeter mayors.
Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul reiterated his belief that he discussed at his recent State of the City address that more investments need to be made in other forms of transportation rather than just roads and cars or metro Atlanta would become lose prestige and be designated “second-rate status.”
Paul noted that the current I-285 and Ga. 400 construction will be challenging for the next decade or so.
“We’ve got to rethink how we move people and maybe the pain of 400 and 285 will get us serious about us extending transit further north and east and west,” he said.
“The good news is we have alternatives,” Paul added. “Unlike Cobb County with their [new Braves stadium] project, you can always take MARTA to go north and south. And I aggressively encourage you to do that.”
Sandy Springs will be receiving more than $100 million in transportation local option sale tax funding to after Fulton County voters in November approved a 0.75 sales tax increase – a dig he was sure to mention when sitting with the three other DeKalb mayors when he noted his city when he said, “Unlike my colleagues, we have a TSPLOST.”
“Thanks for throwing TSPLOST at us,” joked Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson.
“Those of us in DeKalb County do what we can without a sales tax,” he said.
Dunwoody Mayor Denis Shortal said his city is investing money in sidewalks and trails as ways to provide other ways for people to travel, but said that traffic, especially the traffic that will come with the I-285/Ga.400 construction is part of progress.
“You’re going to have to leave earlier,” Shortal recommended as a way to deal with traffic congestion.
“And pack a whole bunch of patience. Progress requires patience,” he said.
Mayor John Ernst of Brookhaven said interconnectivity was key in finding ways to lessen the pain of people sitting in traffic for hours and mentioned his desire to see MARTA connect Brookhaven to Decatur.
This year, Brookhaven will also be paving more than 10 miles or roads in the city, Ernst said.
He also praised residents and the city for working on its own version of the Atlanta Beltline with the proposed Peachtree Creek Greenway that, in the long run, would connect the cities of Doraville, Chamblee and Brookhaven with Atlanta and the Beltline.
“We’re looking to finish our Greenway before the BeltLine is completed,” Ernst said, saying trails and cooperation between cities can make metro Atlanta “a strong economic engine.”
Cooperation between the Perimeter cities will also be crucial in ensuring the cities, and the region, continue to be economic successes well into the future, they all agreed.
Paul said that much of the criticism for the cityhood movement was that the new cities would “balkanize the region” and no regional cooperation would occur.
“My argument is that we have done more regionally since we municipalized because we work together,” he said, explain the cities work together like “Lego blocks.”
Shortal praised leaders of different cities for being able to come together and take off their “city shields” and view themselves as being part of a bigger picture.
“That’s very important as we move forward,” he said. “It’s key to our success.”
The panel discussion was sponsored by the Perimeter Business Alliance.