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Gwinnett's Transportation Wishes in the Hands of Roundtable

Of the $1.28 billion in Norcross area projects submitted, only one idea was tossed: replacing the bridge at Jimmy Carter Boulevard and 85.

Hoping for Gwinnett Light Rail? You might be in luck. A new bridge at 85 and Jimmy Carter? You may have to wait longer. 

A broad, “unconstrained” wish list of transportation projects has been vetted by the Georgia DOT and was delivered yesterday afternoon to the Transportation Investment Act Executive Committee, with about 30 Gwinnett projects erased from the slate. 

The Committee, chaired by Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson, has the challenging task of putting together a final list for voters, who will make the ultimate call in July 2012 on a ten-year, one-penny sales tax for transportation projects. 

Ten Metro Atlanta regions submitted their suggestions in April, with the City of Norcross and the Gwinnett Village CID putting in $1.28 billion in projects, including a high-dollar plan for a Light Rail from the Doraville MARTA station to the Gwinnett Arena.

Todd Long, Director of Planning for GDOT, vetted the regions’ project ideas before submitting the list of 445 projects to the committee members at 2 p.m. yesterday afternoon.

He chose to slash about 100 of the suggested projects and tack about 150 additional projects on, though doing straight math can be difficult in this case because some projects were broken up and some were merged.

Long passed on about 30 Gwinnett county projects, including bridge replacement at Jimmy Carter Boulevard and I-85. 

Joel Wascher, Communications Director at the Gwinnett Village CID, which put the project Jimmy Carter bridge project forward, said the decision was likely made because of the Diverging Diamond Interchange project already underway at the intersection and at the Pleasant Hill bridge, both fully funded by local SPLOST money.

“Todd has some valid concerns about spending $3 million to reroute traffic, then turning around and replacing a bridge,” said Wascher.

He added that, while understandable, nixing the replacement for now would mean crossing a project off the list that polls well with Gwinnett residents.

Jayne Hayes of the Atlanta Regional Commission said that some of the projects were taken out at this phase because they were better suited to the local portion of the funds, which shouldn’t be on the regional list. Others were taken out because they wouldn’t jibe legally.

Long also took off: a Chattahoochee Greenway Trail from Abbotts Bridge Road to Suwanee; a Duluth Multimodal Transfer Center;  intersection improvements at I‐85 and Pleasant Hill Road (bridge replacement); a Main Street Multiuse Trail and Streetscapes in Lilburn; and the Nash Street Extension project in Lawrenceville, among others. 

The Executive Committee will draft a “constrained” list—whittling $22.9 billion in projects to a list that can be funded with the estimated $8 billion—by this August. After public comment, a final list will be due on Oct. 13, according to officials at the ARC.

Mayor Johnson said he thinks the changes made are on point—now it is time for him to get to work.

As the Chair of the Executive Committee, Johnson will create agendas, organize, direct and act as a liaison—a role he said he feels comfortable with as a mayor. Ultimately, he says they will follow three principles when judging the projects against each other: traffic mitigation, economics and, most of all, what the voters want.  

“As a reminder, cost and deliverability are going to be key factors in the long term success,” Todd wrote in his memo to the committee members.

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