Critics of a massive proposal to overhaul Georgia's transportation systems are blasting one of the biggest projects - an upgrade of the interchange at Interstate-285 and Georgia-400 in Sandy Springs.
Voters on July 31 will decide whether they want to add a 1 percent tax onto all sales around metro Atlanta. The transportation special purpose local option sales tax, or T-SPLOST-splost, would raise more than $6 billion to fund improvements on the region's rails, airports and roads. Of that, $450 million would be set aside to fix the I-285/GA-400 interchange, one of the most congested in the entire southeast.
Mike Lowry, a member of the transportation leadership coalition, said the average metro-Atlanta taxpayer should not have to shell out 1 cent to fix the interchange.
"That's like going to the dentist to get a cavity filled and you're told you can't get that unless you buy a $1,000 crown you don't need," Lowry said. "Tax people for where they're using roads, where they're using transit."
Lowry agreed that the interchange needs an upgrade, but he said raising the sales tax would be an unfair burden to the average family.
"A 1 percent sales tax on a family that spends $40,000 a year in retails sales is $400, which is not an insignificant amount," Lowry said.
Supporters argued that reconstructing parts of the interchange would improve the flow of traffic and increase safety for drivers in an area of metro Atlanta where the population has exploded in recent years.
John Eaves, the chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, said funds raised from the proposed tax would be money well spent.
"It's terribly important, it's needed," Eaves said.
Baruch Feigenbaum, senior fellow with the non-partisan Georgia Public Policy Foundation, said the area is a major business center with the largest concentration of jobs on metro Atlanta. An upgrade would dramatically ease congestion for the people who live, shop, work and do business there.
"This is a good project. That project, which is cost effective, will solve a lot of those problems," Feigenbaum said.
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