As the federally-designated Metropolitan Planning Organization for the Atlanta region, the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) works with state and local transportation agencies, local governments and other partners to prioritize federal funding for transportation projects in the 20-county Atlanta region.
Any transportation project or program in the region utilizing federal funds must be approved by ARC and be included in the Atlanta Region’s Plan, the region’s comprehensive, long-range plan. ARC is responsible for developing a long-range Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), the transportation component of the Atlanta Region’s Plan. The current RTP includes $85 billion through 2040 to maintain and improve metro Atlanta roads, highways and transit systems.
ARC also develops a Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), which allocates federal funds for use in construction of the highest-priority transportation projects contained in the RTP. The current TIP covers the first six years of the RTP, through 2021. Projects in the TIP must be fully funded.
The region can expect between $87.3 billion and $92.3 billion in transportation funding through 2040. Funding sources for transportation include:
About $30.1 billion of the region’s transportation funding will come from federal sources. This includes revenues from the Highway Trust Fund, which is supported by a national fuel tax of 18.4 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon on diesel. The fund has struggled to keep up with the state’s needs, given increased fuel efficiency and rising construction costs. The Highway Trust Fund is comprised of the Highway Account, which is administered by the Federal Highway Administration, and the Mass Transit Account, which is administered by the Federal Transit Administration.
Highway Trust Fund dollars are dispersed to the states based on a formula spelled out in the transportation spending bill passed by Congress. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) legislation authorizes $305 billion of federal transportation funding nationwide for five years (2015 – 2020).
About $18.6 billion of the region’s funding will come from state sources. The primary source is a fuel tax of 26 cents per gallon on gasoline and 29 cents per gallon on diesel. The total amount also includes revenue from bonds and tolls.
There is no regional funding for transportation. However, MARTA is funded collectively by sales taxes in the three counties it serves: Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton. A 1 percent sales tax is levied in DeKalb, Clayton and the portion of Fulton that is outside of the City of Atlanta. Atlanta has a 1.5 percent MARTA sales tax. The transit agency also receives federal funding through grant programs.
Many of the region’s counties fund transportation and other infrastructure projects with Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes (SPLOSTs). SPLOSTS, typically a 1 percent tax, are used to fund everything from school construction to transportation. Most of these taxes last 4-to-5 years and are approved by voters through a referendum. Spending on transportation projects typically account for 30% to 100% of total SPLOST revenues.