The GreenRoom: April 2008
* The Georgia Supreme Court seems to have dealt a billion-dollar blow to the Atlanta Beltline, ruling that education taxes can’t be used for infrastructure projects (traditionally school systems can opt in or out of Tax Allocation District funding as they please), even as the city breaks ground on the first phase of trails in West End. But what if the Beltline were only one of many new rail options for Atlanta? MARTA has posted a map of how its rapid transit system may evolve. (http://www.itsmarta.com/newsroom/planstudy.htm).
The Beltline is one of six new projects, including a Bus Rapid Transit I-20 East Corridor, an expanded West Line Corridor, a Clifton Corridor (leading from Lindbergh Center) and an expanded North Line Corridor. A Memorial Drive Bus Rapid Transit Line leading north to U.S. 78 is listed as a project in implementation, which may enter the revenue service phase by 2009. As the city proceeds with plans for the Beltline and streetcar, it’s important to also build upon its existing MARTA system to bring true connectivity.
* Georgia may have lost the water wars, having missed the March 1 tri-state negotiation deadline with Alabama and Florida that would have avoided federal intervention. Still Georgia lawmakers are preparing to handle future drought problems internally with a statewide water plan to expand reservoirs. Progress has been painful, with paranoia about Atlanta gobbling up the state’s water resources rampant. The House Natural Resources Committee approved an amendment to a bill allowing the construction of a network of reservoirs that greatly limits interbasin transfers, a hotter topic than ever. Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Columbus, says the amendment will help garner support for the reservoir bill and put into law guidelines established by Gov. Sonny Perdue and the General Assembly.
Another House bill to expedite the construction of reservoirs by moving authority from the Environmental Protection Department to the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority has met with opposition. Sponsor Rep. Mike Coan (R-Lawrenceville) wants to create a new $250 million Reservoir Fund and allow GEFA to avoid putting projects out to bid as well as give tax credits to developers to use water-saving devices. Neither GEFA nor the EPD has commented, but the Georgia Water Coalition and the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper have opposed the bill. – Ben Young