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 $172.6 billion of investments through 2050 to maintain and improve metro Atlanta roads, highways, transit and bicycling/walking facilities.
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. Projects in the TIP must be fully funded.
Funding sources for transportation include:
About $45.5 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 current TIP and RTP were developed in 2020 under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) legislation. In November 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) replaced the FAST Act and significantly increased the amount of federal funding which will be available to the Atlanta region over the next five years. ARC is currently working with its federal, state and local agency partners to determine how this additional funding might impact the priorities and schedules of projects in the next TIP and RTP. This presentation provides an overview of the new law.
Another $50.0 billion billion of the region’s funding will come from state sources. The primary source is a fuel tax which is indexed to inflation and fuel economy standards. In 2020, the tax rate was set at 27.9 cents per gallon for gasoline and 31.3 cents per gallon for diesel fuel. The fuel tax is supplemented by a variety of fees imposed on electric vehicles, heavy vehicles and hotel lodging.
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. Total sales tax and farebox revenues generated by MARTA are estimated at $31.8 billion through 2050.
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. Some jurisdictions have Transportation SPLOSTs (T-SPLOST) where 100% of the revenue collected must be dedicated by law to transportation projects. Most of these taxes last 4-to-5 years and are approved by voters through a referendum. SPLOSTs and T-SPLOSTs are jointly estimated to generate over $22.5 billion through 2050. ARC manages a tracking tool with data on these local sales taxes for our 20 county transportation planning area. The information is updated monthly from Georgia Department of Revenue reports.
In addition to these dedicated streams, it’s estimated that $22.8 billion of additional local revenues will be available for transportation purposes over the life of the plan. These sources range from property taxes, non-SPLOST sales taxes, transit fares (for systems other than MARTA), permit fees, tax allocation, district collections and private sector partnerships.