Ga. Senate transportation chairman endorses passage of MARTA contract

By Curt Yeomans

Gwinnett Daily Post

The proposal to bring Gwinnett County into MARTA got an endorsement Monday night from one of the architects of legislation signed into law last year that set the stage for this month’s transit vote.

State Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, was the guest speaker at a forum hosted by Peachtree City Councilman Phil Sadd at Winter’s Chapel United Methodist Church. Beach and Gwinnett County Chairwoman Charlotte Nash spoke to attendees about transit and fielded questions ranging from debt for MARTA projects to the need for a heavy rail extension.

Beach, who is chairman of the Georgia Senate Transportation Committee, was unequivocal in his support of voter passage of a contract between Gwinnett and MARTA to bring the county into the regional transit system near the end of the meeting.

“I would encourage you to vote ‘Yes’ because I think it’s a great investment,” said Beach, who said a seamless way to move across metro Atlanta’s five core counties is needed.

Beach was one of two leading legislative voices that pushed House Bill 930, which created the Atlanta Transit Link Authority, also known as The ATL. That bill included a Gwinnett-specific provision which laid the foundation for the county’s contract with MARTA, which voters are being asked to cast ballots on in a referendum on March 19.

If voters approve the contract, MARTA will be extended into Gwinnett and a 1 percent sales tax will be levied in the county to pay for the county’s participation in the regional transit system.

Although there has been back and forth debate between proponents and opponents of the proposal for Gwinnett to join MARTA, Beach gave the deal his seal of approval twice

“I can tell you (Nash) negotiated a heck of a deal and the money will stay here in Gwinnett,” Beach said. “I’m a firm believer in this. I think people are willing to invest in infrastructure if they know infrastructure is going to be built, and it’s going to make their quality of life better and it’s going to have good service and work.”

Molly Bloom