Community leaders return to drawing board for traffic solutions



ATLANTA - Community representatives gathered over the weekend to discuss ways to ease congestion in the metro area.

Scores of people shared their views at the Partnership for Southern Equity forum at the Jewish Federation in midtown. The nonprofit group, which promotes equity and shared prosperity in metro Atlanta, held the forum after a year of research and discussions with residents around the region.

The meeting comes after the 1 percent sales tax referendum failed in the July primary election. Supporters said the proposed measure, which sparked controversy among communities and civic leaders, was intended to generate $7.2 billion for traffic-related projects in 10 metro counties.

"The referendum may have been defeated. It may have not passed, but the issues around transportation are still here," said Nathaniel Smith, PSE chief equity officer.

Some attendees said the proposed tax failed because many of its supporters failed to listen enough to the community.

"For us it's really about starting with the people first. And then the people will move forward and influence the policy agenda," Smith said.

Allen Fernandez Smith, Urban Habitat president abd keynote speaker at the weekend event, said he's dealt with similar transportation issues in the Bay Area.

"How do you think where the regional needs are and really investing where that happens,?" he told Channel 2's Sophia Choi.

Such question is among the key questions attendees asked Saturday with participants voting on five issues, including what is your No. 1 transportation infrastructure priority for metro Atlanta?

Once forum participants vote on these issues, PSE will then summarize them and send them off to county and city leaders in September.