A bill passed Monday in the state Senate would require counties to get voter approval before building any new “fixed guideway transit,” such as the $500 million bus rapid transit system that has been proposed by Cobb County Commissioner Tim Lee.
Senate Bill 420 specifically exempts MARTA. But it would apply to counties like Cobb and Gwinnett that might consider adding their own rail or bus rapid transit service one day. Sen. Lindsey Tippens, a Republican from west Cobb County, introduced the local legislation. SB 420 now goes to the House for consideration.
The measure requires that the ballot question specify the what kind of transit service the county would build and where, as well as the cost for construction, operations and maintenance and the date that construction costs would be paid in full.
Cobb County last year approved a long-range transportation plan that did not require a public vote prior to pursuing bus rapid transit along Cobb Parkway. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that misleading information was presented in a key bus rapid transit environmental study, and that the same language was repeated in a federal transit grant request made by the county.
Tippins previously told the Marietta Daily Journal that the bill was aimed at preventing Cobb Chairman Tim Lee from proceeding with the project without first getting public buy-in.
State Sen. Brandon Beach, opposed the measure, telling his Senate colleagues “if you’re for local control, you should vote against it.” Beach said voters already elect local commissioners, and that requiring a referendum vote could kill private investment into such projects.
* Staff writer Kristina Torres contributed to this article.