Commissioners approve contract with MARTA

Commissioners approve contract with MARTA
Contract to appear on ballot in March 2019 for voter consideration. A summary of the major provisions in the contract is also provided.

The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday approved a contract with the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority to operate and expand Gwinnett’s transit system in accordance with the recently approved Connect Gwinnett Transit Development Plan.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlotte Nash expressed appreciation to MARTA for the spirit of cooperation and responsiveness shown during the contract negotiation. She said, “I am pleased with both the negotiation process and its outcome.”

The board also passed a motion putting the contract on the ballot in the March 19, 2019, special election for voter consideration.

Voters in March 2019 will be asked to say yes or no to the contract negotiated with the Authority.

As dictated by state law, the ballot question shall read: “Gwinnett County has executed a contract for the provision of transit services, dated as of August 2, 2018. Shall this contract be approved? YES ___ NO ___.”

Nash said that Gwinnett is expected to grow by up to 500,000 people for a total of about 1.5 million over the next two decades and that transportation options are essential.

“Public input gathered as part of the recently approved Comprehensive Transportation Plan and the newly adopted Connect Gwinnett Transit Development Plan also made it clear that Gwinnett residents and businesses are hungry for congestion relief and mobility options,” she said. “The agreement allows us to implement a transit system to a high standard.”

Under the contract, the Authority would operate Gwinnett’s bus system as soon as practical upon voter approval. The Authority would also move forward with implementing the other modes of transit mentioned in the Plan, such as Bus Rapid Transit.

Approval of the contract by voters begins the process that will ultimately lead to a robust expansion of transit within Gwinnett and its linkages to the regional transit system. Nash said bus service would be expanded and improved first, and planning and engineering would begin on the capital-intensive high-capacity services like bus rapid transit.

If voters approve the contract, a 1 percent sales tax then would be assessed starting April 1, 2019, to help cover the cost of operations, improvements and equipment. The sales tax proceeds combined with federal funds and fare box collections will fund the transit expansion. Bonds are also allowed and can help spread the costs for large capital projects. The bond debt would be repaid over time with proceeds from the transit sales tax.

Under the contract, future transit projects would follow the Connect Gwinnett Transit Development Plan, which took into account input from residents, businesses, a technical committee of experts, stakeholders, planners and others. The transit plan was approved by the Board of Commissioners on July 17 of this year.

Gwinnett and the Authority would jointly plan and implement projects with construction of all fixed asset capital projects, such as transit stations, first being approved by Gwinnett County officials. Gwinnett also would have the right to review specific designs before construction. The contract allows Gwinnett and the Authority to update the plan to take advantage of new technology and to adapt to changing conditions.

Gwinnett County Police and other law enforcement agencies will need to work closely with the Authority police force to provide support and assistance related to public safety services. Details for the working relationship will be spelled out in a separate agreement.