On Tuesday, May 12, Governor Nathan Deal signed into law Senate Bill 4 (SB4) to provide a way for public/private partnerships to finance Atlanta BeltLine transit, trails, parks, and streetscapes. Across the nation, the cost of providing public infrastructure continues to rise while the amount of public funding available is becoming less certain. Georgia state law will now permit a framework in which a public entity (such as Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. and the City of Atlanta) can partner with the private sector to fund capital projects.
In a public/private partnership, the private entity typically covers many of the upfront capital costs for the project, assuming most of the risk and receiving payments over time while the public entity can benefit from the expertise and efficiencies of the private sector. Public/private partnerships are one of many financing and funding tools that will be required to complete the Atlanta BeltLine between now and 2030. Additional funding comes from tax allocation districts, private dollars, other City of Atlanta capital funding and federal funds.
The effort to pass SB4 was led by Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) and the legislation received overwhelming bipartisan support from the General Assembly. The bill opens up new possibilities for funding the Atlanta BeltLine and building projects faster and more efficiently. Around the nation, other cities are utilizing public private partnerships to build infrastructure projects, such as the Maryland Transit Administration’s Purple Line, a proposed light-rail project that would traverse several metro Maryland counties. Similarly, Denver is using working in partnership with the private sector to build its $2.2 billion “Eagle” project to expand transit throughout the metro region.
The General Assembly also passed major transportation funding legislation that will generate over $900 million in new annual revenue for transportation infrastructure. While most of these funds will go toward maintenance and improvements on roads and bridges, lawmakers took the first step by including language to allow counties and regions to introduce referenda for sales tax up to 1 cent to fund local transit projects. The penny sales tax referendum could go before voters in the City of Atlanta and Fulton County as early as 2016.
Follow all Atlanta BeltLine news at beltline.org, and visit us at our second Quarterly Briefing on June 22 at the Fulton County Assembly Hall at 6 p.m. for the latest on Atlanta BeltLine projects and programs.