It’s a long road to Congress finalizing the new federal budget. But under President Trump’s proposed plan, Atlanta’s transportation future could be at risk.
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When Atlanta voters approved a half-penny sales tax last year to expand MARTA, the idea was that the money raised could be used to draw in matching federal dollars.
Trump’s budget proposal says it will cut off future funding for the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program.
“This is the program that people in the city of Atlanta were hoping to pair with the money they are raising to build more of the transit network and add transit to the BeltLine,” said Steve Davis, a spokesperson with the advocacy group Transportation for America.
In a statement, MARTA says the budget proposal is “not promising,” but says it looks forward to trying to make its case to the administration.
Another federal transportation funding mechanism, the TIGER grant program, is also slated to be cut. The city got $10 million for improvements on MLK Drive through TIGER last year.
Davis said the need for more transportation options in a city like Atlanta, where congestion is growing along an expanding business community, is only going to get more dire.
“Rhetorically, there’s a big issue with a president who wants to be known as an infrastructure president, and has been talking since Nov. 8 about making a trillion-dollar investment in infrastructure,” Davis said. “This proposal undercuts that stated commitment in a significant way.”
Environmental Budget Cuts
The Environmental Protection Agency could be the federal government’s biggest loser if the Trump administration gets its budget wishes granted. The proposed 30 percent funding cut is one piece that has local environmental activists worried.
Gil Rogers, director of the Atlanta office of the Southern Environmental Law Center, said an important research program on Georgia’s coast is in the crosshairs: the proposed budget specifically lists the Sea Grant project to be eliminated.
“It’s a whole program that helps coastal communities prepare for sea level rise, health modeling, coastal hazards, water quality – really the whole gamut of science that underpins healthy coastal communities,” Rogers said.
The Sea Grant program was created in the 1960s and funds research by more than 30 universities, including the University of Georgia. The Georgia program gets about $1.3 million in federal funding a year.
Rogers said meanwhile, the budget calls for faster ways to expand offshore oil drilling.