Atlanta Mayor Turns Focus to Infrastructure; Referendum Coming by Mid-2015
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has said improving roads, bridges, and traffic lights will be a top priority of his second term.
He reiterated that earlier this month in response to a reporter’s question about whether more could have been offered to keep the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.
“I happen to know the people of Atlanta if given the choice – people may find this unbelievable but I’ve actually polled it – they’d rather me deal with traffic light synchronization, sidewalks being repaired, roads being repaired, potholes being repaired, parks being expanded then taking the full allotment of that money and investing it in the Ted (Turner Field),” said Reed.
He wants to issue between $150-$250 million in bonds to begin addressing the city's near-billion-dollar infrastructure backlog.
To do that without a tax increase, outgoing Atlanta Chief Operating Officer Duriya Farooqui said the first half of 2014 will be devoted to identifying cost savings in the city’s general fund to offset the expected $15-20 million in annual debt service payments for the bonds.
“We want to make sure, and the mayor is going to want to make sure, the commitment that we make in making a significant dent in our infrastructure backlog is matched by a sustained capacity to financially meet our obligation,” said Farooqui.
Once that’s done, Reed plans to engage with City Council members to hammer out a project list. Farooqui says the administration will be working off a 2010 report that identified the city’s most pressing infrastructure needs.
“We have a very good baseline for what the needs are but what combination of those would be and should be included is something that the city is going to work through with City Council in partnership with them,” said Farooqui.
Because the bond issuance is expected to be so large, a public referendum is necessary. Farooqui said voters will be asked to approve the bond issuance by mid-2015.
According to the 2010 report, at least a dozen bridges are candidates for repair or replacement. Among those most in need include Powers Ferry Road bridge near Chastain Memorial Park.
For more background on the city's infrastructure backlog, see this report from 2008.