ATLANTA, Ga – Last Thursday’s I-85 bridge collapse has already become an issue in what will be this summer’s biggest political story, the 2017 Atlanta mayor’s race.
Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves, the latest candidate to enter the race, reacted quickly on social media to the news:
Eaves was tweaking Atlanta mayor Kasim's Reed statement that commuters should embrace the city's approach to traffic during the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games:
“I feel as if I’m uniquely qualified to address the issue of transportation on several fronts,” Eaves said. “We have the chance to seriously consider a regional transportation plan on several fronts because of this. The only thing that’s missing is the political will.”
A spokesperson for Post 2-at large Atlanta city councilwoman Mary Norwood, another mayoral hopeful, said transportation improvements are a key issue in her campaign.
“Most people, business owners included, don’t even know where the city limits are," Norwood said during a February appearance at a mayoral candidate's forum. "We are a very convoluted city landscape. Because of this, we must look all over the city, not just in the areas that have high growth now. We must spread the growth out so we can better manage and control it, and help citizens better navigate to where they want to be.”
PHOTOS: The moment I-85 collapsed
On Sunday morning, MARTA chief of staff Rukiya Thomas assured 11Alive viewers the agency was ready to handle an increase in ridership.
“On Friday, we experienced a 25-percent uptick, and we’re excited and ready for more,” Thomas said. “We’ve been on calls with our operators and staff to make sure we’re ready.”
More than 20 years ago, voters in Cobb and Gwinnett counties rejected MARTA expansion. Since then, however, both counties have created their own regional bus systems, and Clayton County voters approved MARTA in 2014.
"The renewed Atlanta bond referendum was originally passed two years ago, but the promised traffic fixes, especially the improved signalization, have not been implemented," Norwood said "I will fast track this.
"Also, the T-SPLOST expires in five years, so we must quickly have our projects list and begin the work."
“The backbone of the system is in place with the city of Atlanta, and DeKalb and Fulton counties," Eaves said. "Now it’s time to develop that spine even further.”
In November 2016, city of Atlanta voters overwhelmingly approved a half-penny sales tax increase to further expand MARTA and pay for other transportation improvements.
GUIDE: How do I get around on MARTA?
Fulton County commissioners are discussing the option of whether to place a quarter-of-a-penny sales tax before voters for more transportation improvements.
“We’re having conversations right now with other Fulton County mayors,” Eaves said. "Every now and then something happens that moves the needle forward on a critically important issue. The bridge collapse is one of those incidents.”