Transit referendum on ballot once again in Gwinnett County but with some changes

Gwinnett County voters have an extra question on their ballots, and it’s surprising some.

The last question on the ballot is a transit referendum. Voters turned down a similar question last year, but supporters have reorganized and brought a different plan back before residents.

Voter Brenda Smith told Channel 2 Action News Gwinnett County Bureau Chief Tony Thomas she was surprised.

“Did you even know that was on the ballot?” Thomas asked.

“We didn’t. I didn’t until I read it.” Smith said.

The ballot question reads simply: “Shall a special 1% sales and use tax be imposed in the special district consisting of Gwinnett County for a period of time not to exceed 30 years and for the raising of funds for transit projects?”

“I think it was sneaky. I mean they’ve been trying and trying and it keeps getting turned down," said Mike Planovsky, who voted against the plan. "There’s enough traffic out here as it is. I don’t think there’s a need to bring more transit out here. "

But his wife voted for the plan.

“I think it’s a good thing,” said Colleen Planovsky.

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The $12.1 billion question has several changes to it, but like last time, asks voters to increase the county sales tax by a penny for the next 30 years.

In exchange, the plan calls for expanded bus service under the control of Gwinnett Transit, and a train line extension from the current MARTA Doraville station to the Jimmy Carter Boulevard area.

New buses and rapid transit would begin rolling in 10 years under the plan and the trains wouldn’t start until 2036.

One of the big supporters of the transit referendum is the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce. “This is going to be the last time we need to worry about this because it will pass," CEO Nick Masino predicted.

The 2019 plan would have given control of the expansion to MARTA. Under this new plan, Gwinnett County keeps control of everything except the heavy rail extension. The timeframe for expansion is also sped up.

Last year, there was a large effort to spread word of the referendum. The county called it Connect Gwinnett. This time around, supporters have been relatively quiet, relying on a huge voter turnout to get the referendum passed.

“We are seeing a lot of positive signs," Masino said. “I believe that this will have the best chance of passing.”

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