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8/17: More federal funds headed to area transportation projects (CrossRoadsNews)
U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson pumped up the volume on DeKalb’s transportation issues with an Aug. 16 visit from the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, James Oberstar (D-Minn.), and an announcement Thursday of an additional $2.2 million for area transportation projects.
The funds will go to the I-20 East Corridor in South DeKalb, the Atlanta BeltLine and Jimmy Carter Boulevard over I-85 in Gwinnett County.
In an Aug. 19 statement, Johnson’s office said the bulk of the funds, more than $1.2 million, will go to the I-20 East Corridor for initial environmental work on the first phase of the corridor expansion. The BeltLine gets $475,000.
Johnson said he also helped obtain $500,000 to replace the existing bridge that carries Jimmy Carter Boulevard over I-85 and reconstruction of the intersections with the existing I-85 on and off ramps. The new bridge will carry 11 lanes, four lanes wider than the existing seven-lane bridge.
“Traffic congestion has gotten so bad it’s choking off our growth, our competitiveness and our quality of life,” he said. “These investments will not only put people back to work, but will go a long way in helping us create sustainable, livable communities that will be better connected and more accessible.”
Johnson is one of the newest members of the powerful Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He hosted the committee’s chairman at the Aug. 16 meetings with DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis and county commissioners to discuss the county’s transportation and infrastructure needs.
They showed Oberstar the I-20 East Corridor, Arabia Mountain Heritage Area bike trails, the Atlanta BeltLine, the Perimeter Center, I-85 and Jimmy Carter Boulevard.
Oberstar also met with MARTA CEO Beverly Scott.
Johnson said that they are exploring the possibilities of light rail and getting people on bikes.
“All four entities – the BeltLine, Perimeter Center, MARTA and DeKalb County with Arabia Mountain – are doing great things to help create livable communities,” said Johnson, who represents the 4th Congressional District that includes portions of DeKalb, Rockdale and Gwinnett counties.
Oberstar said he was impressed with the progress Atlanta has made since his last visit more than 13 years ago.
“Increased traffic congestion is a complex problem that can adversely affect the nation’s economic growth, our competitiveness in the world marketplace, and the quality of life in local communities,” he said. “While the federal government must lead the way in infrastructure investment, it is great to see firsthand innovative projects, such as the BeltLine, which can improve connectivity and lead to sustainable, vibrant communities.”
Ellis said DeKalb took the opportunity to point out the challenges the county faces in planning, gaining support for, and determining the qualifying funding for the critical infrastructure needs.
The county has received $55 million for transportation projects from the Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
“We’re creating jobs, improving motorist and pedestrian safety, building bike trails, and improving traffic signals on resurfacing streets,” Ellis said.
Ellis said that he is grateful for the funds the county received, but the county is in need of a long-term solution and cure for its transportation issues.
With Oberstar’s sponsorship of the Surface Transportation Authorization Bill, Ellis said the county’s infrastructure ills could be cured.
“Citizens will have better access to public transit, more transportation alternatives, more bicycle and pedestrian facilities, pedestrian safety, and congestion relief,” he said.
Oberstar said that the country as a whole needs to liberate urban America from the congestion that is choking the cities.
“Metro areas can’t breathe if their roadways are clogged, and that’s why we need to invest in surface transportation,” Oberstar said. “That’s the vision of the future.”
He also said the bicycle trails in the county will enhance the county’s attractiveness, which will help it bring in more businesses.
Oberstar said he plans to have the bill signed by the end of the year.
“With Hank Johnson’s help we’re going to move that bill,” he said. “We’re going to move it through the committee, through the House, and eventually to the Congress.”
Johnson said Oberstar’s visit was an ideal way to highlight Atlanta’s progress and plan for its future.
“The visit today will go a long way toward increasing Washington’s comfort level with what we’re doing here in the Atlanta metro area with respect to transportation and sustainable communities,” he said.
Read more: CrossRoadsNews - More federal funds headed to area transportation projects