New GA 400 Exit on Kimball Bridge Road?

GA 400 Flex Lanes on Kimball Bridge Rd

Over the weekend Alpharetta City Council Candidate Ben Burnett invited me to an event hosted by residents along Kimball Bridge Road. For more than an hour the residents shared many questions and comments about a number of concerns but the hottest topic of conversation was traffic along the Kimball Bridge corridor.

KBR design

As many of you may recall the voters of Alpharetta approved a municipal bond project which included road and intersection improvements for the stretch of Kimball Bridge Road between Waters Road and Northpoint Parkway. We talked about those plans and discussed the neighborhood concerns about adding a roundabout where the red light at New Prospect Elementary School is now.

Neighbors also brought up the topic of developments along Northwinds Parkway and Kimball Bridge Road west of GA 400. So Ben and I explained the plans for road improvements being discussed with the Georgia Department of Transportation as part of the TSPLOST project list.

You can find the full list of those projects here. And as we discussed proposed road improvements for the west side of Kimball Bridge Road it became apparent none of the residents along Kimball Bridge Road had any idea that the Georgia Department of Transportation plans to replace their bridge over GA 400 with one that will include on and off ramps for managed toll lanes onto Kimball Bridge.

In fact the residents in attendance were shocked. So I explained that Alpharetta’s Director of Engineering and Public Works had presented plans for the exits to our mayor and council during a public workshop in May. Then I encouraged residents along Kimball Bridge Road to start paying close attention to the Department of Transportation plans because the work is expected to begin in 2020 and if they wait much longer it could be too late.

For those of you not familiar with the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Managed Lane Program for the GA 400 corridor you can read more on their website here. You can also watch video of the public presentation we received at our May 22nd meeting on the Alpharetta city website here. If you follow that link and click on the agenda item number 10 below the video it will skip to the Kimball Bridge discussion which began at the 2:51:30 point of the video.

These days there are so many changes taking place in Alpharetta it is nearly impossible for our residents to keep up. And it could have been a real mess if the families most impacted by toll lane exits on Kimball Bridge Road had not found out until it was too late.

Neighborhood meetings are a great way to keep the lines of communication open between council members and our constituents. I am glad to know Mr. Burnett appreciates that.

 

Georgia’s statewide transportation charade

Yesterday the AJC posted an editorial by Neal Boortz titled Our transportation record shows lack of leadership. He makes some excellent points so I hope you read the whole thing. Below are a few choice selections:

I’ve been reading the AJC’s coverage of the machinations surrounding the  multibillion dollar transportation infrastructure tax referendum scheduled  to descend upon us next summer. And so, a question: Considering the  transportation track record of the brilliant traffic planners and engineers  in the Atlanta region, do you really have the confidence to put a few  billion dollars in their hands for more projects and “improvements”?

Let’s just look at the record. First we’ll deal with that traffic monstrosity  known as the Downtown Connector. If you weren’t born here you probably don’t  know that what is now the Downtown Connector was supposed to be the route of  I-85. I-75 was supposed to come roaring in from the North along what is now  Northside Drive to cross I-85 around the airport. Someone decided we could  save some money by simply combining the two through the city. That certainly  worked out well, didn’t it?

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Pity also, if you will, the poor saps traveling down Ga. 400 toward downtown.  Your typical suburban families eager for an evening of fun at Underground  Atlanta. There our transportation wizards funnel four lanes of traffic down  to one for the transition to I-85 … and Lord help you if you cross the  gore, that white line separating the highways from the on- and off-ramps.  See you in court.

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The new tax is also supposed to fund some rail projects as well, right? Will  these projects be designed by the same geniuses who didn’t put a MARTA  station at what was then Atlanta-Fulton County Station — a station that  would now serve Turner Field — because Atlanta was afraid it would lose  parking revenue at the stadium? Can the people who made this decision be  banned from getting anywhere near even 1 cent of this new tax revenue?

Boortz is right. How can any rational person believe that the dysfunctional politicians, consultants and bureaucrats that got us into this mess will ever solve anything?

If you doubt me just consider that after months of political haggling the geniuses in charge have managed to compile a list which would spend more than 6 Billion Dollars without making any noticeable impact on Atlanta’s traffic problem. Look at the list yourself.

Notice anything strange? The state is trying to sell people on higher taxes for a plan that doesn’t even begin to cover the cost of the projects they are including!

The state list says that they will spend $172,000,000 to improve the exchange at GA 400 and I-285. But the cost of the project is projected to cost $450,000,000. The list also calls for $37,000,000 to bring MARTA to Roswell… but it projects the total cost to be more than $900,000,000. Transit advocates have been all excited about the inclusion of One Billion Dollars to expand MARTA into the I-20 and Clifton Road areas. But apparently it doesn’t bother them that the state expects it to actually cost nearly Two Billion Dollars. So even if those projects could relieve traffic the state would still need another Two Billion Dollars to get them all done.

But we are falling into a trap if we worry too much about the list anyway. It is an illusion. The project list will carry no more weight than a flyer handed out by a used car salesman.

The list to be voted on next year will not be a binding contract… on the state. When the state takes money from one promised project to cover the gap they have in another, taxpayers will have no recourse. Remember what they did with the GA 400 tolls?

So realize that the entire transportation tax charade is just one big, happy waste of time intended to get the “buy-in” of Georgia taxpayers and facilitate a new pipeline of money for the people responsible for our transportation mess in the first place. The same people that created the downtown connector and routed MARTA away from Atlanta Fulton County stadium will decide where Billions of dollars in extra tax money go and there won’t be a darn thing we will be able to do about it. Yay!

Transportation follies continue

The third act of Georgia’s transportation tax follies began this week as the planning director of the Department of Transportation, Todd Long, announced his list of projects which could be funded with the tax increase. If passed by voters, Metro Atlanta taxpayers will be expected to pay an additional 8 Billion Dollars over the next ten years. With this week’s release of potential projects the state has winnowed the list down to a mere $23 Billlion. But since 23 Billion is nearly 300% of what can be expected from taxpayers the rest of the cuts will have to come from that master of efficiency known as a government committee.

The AJC has an article about this most recent revision of the transportation project list and you can read the whole thing here. Below are a few of the highlights:

A group of 21 local elected officials must take those $22.9 billion worth of projects and jettison about $15 billion of them, because the penny tax would raise only about $8 billion over its 10 years

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For  the moment, this is it: $14 billion worth of transit projects, $8.6  billion worth of road projects, $205 million in sidewalk and bicycle  projects, and $28 million for aviation.

Long emphasized that the  $14 billion price tag for all the transit was just a reflection of the  high cost of new transit capital projects, not his opinion on how much  the region should spend on such projects.

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Bodker (Johns Creek mayor) is ambivalent about the idea of Ga. 400 transit. While he favors transit, he said it has to be the right project, a sustainable one, so he’d like to see it studied first.  MARTA staff did not put the project on the agency’s list because of the difficulty and expense of crossing the Chattahoochee River to get to the next jobs center, staff members told their board.

But other officials in north Fulton favored putting the $839 million line on the list, Long said.

So the director of planning added an $839 million MARTA train extension to Roswell because “other officials in North Fulton” favored it. I can’t imagine who those other officials  might be.

The MARTA train is projected to cost 10% of all the money collected from every taxpayer in the metro Atlanta area over ten years and wasn’t even requested by the people of Roswell. That is the kind of decision making which will doom this entire transportation tax boondoggle.

I am starting to believe that the tax increase is doomed. And while I never thought the tax increase was a good idea, it is sad that the state will have wasted two years by the time voters make it official.

Brandon Beach pitches trains in Windward on the news

Earlier I covered curious events surrounding a presentation to the Alpharetta City Council by Mr. Brandon Beach. Mr. Beach is a board member of the Georgia Department of Transportation and also serves as the CEO of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce as well as Director of the North Fulton CID which represents the commercial property owners in the Northpoint Parkway area of Alpharetta.

You can read the previous posts here and here for more details. But after Mr. Beach decided not to present his transit plan to our city council you can imagine my surprise when I heard that he had instead chosen to present the plan on WSB’s newscast last night. You can see the clip by clicking on the picture below.

I have seen Mr. Beach give a similar presentation but it didn’t mention taking the train through my neighborhood to Duluth. Needless to say I am not a fan of expanding costly and inefficient trains through my neighborhood and now I understand why he didn’t even bother presenting the plan to our City Council.

In a completely unrelated matter I noticed a few pictures of Mr. Beach in the Alpharetta Revue today. The odd thing was that standing right there with Brandon was Penn Hodge, the developer that owns the land adjacent to the Windward MARTA property. Looked like they were having a great time together at the Ritz Carlton. Small world isn’t it?

But back to the matter at hand, I did like one part of the WSB news story. The clip where Mr. Beach says,”You’ve got Windward… up here… with jobs.” The rest of the clip… not so much.

The incredible disappearing transit machine

Last Friday an agenda item about a transit presentation by Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce CEO, Northpoint CID Director and Georgia DOT Board member Brandon Beach magically appeared on the Alpharetta City Council docket for Monday night. I was surprised to see such an item appear out of thin air and wrote about it in this post over the weekend.

Well apparently I wasn’t the only one surprised. Several City Council members told me that they didn’t know anything about it until last Friday either.  Then yesterday, as magically as it appeared, the transit presentation disappeared and never took place. Curious stuff.

Maybe Mr. Beach saw the recent article “The Public Transport Revolution – Why does it never Arrive?” on Newgeography.com and realized that MARTA trains were a waste of time and money. You can read the whole article here but below are a few highlights.

Urban economist, Anthony Downs, writing in “Still Stuck in  Traffic?” reminds us:

“….trying to decrease traffic congestion by raising  residential densities is like trying to improve the position of a painting hung  too high on the living room wall by jacking up the ceiling instead of  moving the painting.”

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One of the arguments used against building more roads – and  especially against more motorways – is that as soon as they are built they  become congested again because of “induced demand.” Such “induced demand” is  surely the natural expression of suppressed demand. It seems unlikely  that motorists will mindlessly drive between different destinations for no  other reason than they can.

However, let us accept for a moment that “induced demand” is  real, and suggests that improving the road network is a fruitless exercise. Advocates  of expensive rail networks claim they will reduce congestion on the roads and  improve the lot of private vehicle users as a consequence.

But surely, if the construction of an expensive rail network  does reduce congestion on the roads then induced demand will rapidly restore  the status quo. Maybe the theory is  sound after all. It would explain why no retrofitted rail networks have  anywhere resulted in reduced congestion.

This is the time to invest in an enhanced roading network while  making incremental investments in flexible public transport. Roads can be  shared by buses, trucks, vans, cars, taxis, shuttle-buses, motor-cycles and  cyclists – unless compulsive regulators say they are for buses only. Railway  lines can be used only by trains and if we build them in the wrong place they  soon run empty. The Romans built roads and we still use them.

So maybe the incredible disappearing transit machine shows that local business leaders now realize raising sales taxes to pay for expensive, inefficient trains is a waste of time and money. And maybe the Georgia Department of Transportation will make up for decades of neglecting roads in what has been one of the fastest growing areas in the nation.

And maybe I’ll ride a flying pig to Braves games this Summer.

Nothing to see here… move along… move along

A curious thing popped up on the city of Alpharetta’s website the other day.

It comes as no surprise that Brandon Beach wants the Alpharetta City Council to accept his billion dollar vision for taxpayer subsidized public mass transit. Mr. Beach simultaneously acts as the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce’s CEO, the North Fulton Community Improvement District’s Executive Director as well as the 6th District representative on the Georgia Department of Transportation and I have personally heard him pitch his vision to the Windward Rotary Club as covered here at the Alpharetta Patch. I have also noticed that local Chamber of Commerce officials along with representatives of area Community Improvement Districts are currently conducting an extensive public relations campaign to promote taxpayer subsidized trains on the northern perimeter of Atlanta. You can see what I mean here and here.

So Mr. Beach’s proposal is not a surprise and there is nothing wrong with businessmen and their employees lobbying Metro Atlanta taxpayers to pay an additional 8 Billion dollars in sales tax which will be spent on transportation projects. When the projects could make them billions of dollars it just makes good business sense. Kind of like when the Cobb County CIDs spent $150,000 to make sure the local SPLOST tax passed.

The only surprise is that once again the Alpharetta City Council is making crucial decisions about the future of our city without actively soliciting the consent of their constituents. I pay a great deal of attention to what is going on in the City of Alpharetta and take care to read every public notice and press release I find. Yet the appearance of the transit item on Monday night’s Council agenda was a complete surprise to me.

I think it is fair to say that 99% of Alpharettans won’t even know the transit issue came up unless the local print media bothers to publish a story after the fact. The decision of approving Mr. Beach’s transit vision of the future is a crucial one. It is a decision that could affect every person in this city for generations to come and may decide how billions of dollars in taxes are spent. Yet there are only a handful of people that even notice what is going on.

Nothing to see here… move along… move along.

Update on the transportation tax increase

Today’s AJC includes an update on the wish list being compiled to sell voters on the sales tax increase proposed by the state of Georgia. The additional sales tax is expected to cost Atlanta metro area residents 8 Billion Dollars over ten years and the referendum will include examples of the projects that the money could be spent on.

So far municipalities around Atlanta have submitted over 29 Billion Dollars worth of projects that they want to include so there is going to be a lot of horse trading over the next few months as politicians are forced to give up on 21 Billion Dollars worth of projects. This should be fun to watch.

Below is the paragraph about North Fulton:

Notable no-show

All those north metro drivers who motor down to MARTA’s North Springs Station have spurred talk of extending the train line further up Ga. 400. But no one requested such a project for the referendum, according to the ARC. (At least not yet, as the state DOT has yet to weigh in.)

Since the President and CEO of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, Brandon Beach, is also the North Fulton representative on the Georgia Department of Transportation Board it will be interesting to see what is included after the DOT “weighs in”. You can read the whole thing here.