Jones Bridge Road TSPLOST Veto Stands
The debate over Jones Bridge Road widening to four lanes went into high gear during the Monday December 10, 2018 City Council Meeting. On November 26, 2018, the City Council voted 5-to-2 in support of exploring options in pursuit of an optimal solution balancing traffic congestion relief and resident concerns over quality of life issues. On December 7, 2018, Mayor Bodker issued a veto to override the Council’s decision. It was only the second time the Mayor has exercised his veto rights during his 12 years in office.
The five City Council Members who originally voted to support efforts to explore options included Council Members Bradberry, Coughlin, Endres, Lin, and Zaprowski. In order for the Mayor’s veto to stand, one of those had to change their position, and the Mayor found that support in Councilman Jay Lin. Councilman Lin attempted to justify his change in position on concerns over legal issues. Councilman Bradberry offered an easy door to pursuing flexibility with limited legal risk, but Councilman Lin didn’t display any interest despite his previous commitment to residents to stand strong against road widening.
Council Members engaged in detailed discussions about the history and ramifications of allowing the veto to stand. Council Members Bradberry, Coughlin, and Endres had prepared statements with passionate presentations of their positions. Highest among their concerns was the precedent that would be set impacting all future TSPLOST projects when they believe that the law is not as restrictive as it is being portrayed. Simply accepting the position that TSPLOST projects are strictly defined with no allowance for local adjustments means that more highly controversial items on the list will be subject to the same narrowly documented definitions. The primary example cited was the 6 lane widening of Medlock Bridge Road/141.
Councilman Broadbent supported the Mayor’s veto, consistent with his November 26, 2018 vote opposing the motion to explore options for Jones Bridge Road. However, his statement was at odds with his opposition to any widening of Medlock Bridge Road/141. Considering the ramifications of Councilman Broadbent’s position, his sincerity opposing the widening of Medlock Bridge/141 must be called into question, especially as his post will be up for re-election in November 2019.
During the run-up to the November 2016 TSPLOST vote, our city held numerous sessions informing the public about TSPLOST and the projected benefits it could provide in traffic congestion. These sessions were largely supportive of TSPLOST, and residents were told repeatedly that the items on the TSPLOST project list would not move forward without first coming to City Council for review and approval. All projects and budgets could be changed, and even abandoned if City Council chose to do so. Under the circumstances, our city leadership and staff have been complicit in their support for TSPLOST.
Council Members Bradberry and Endres pressed the Mayor and City Attorney Bennett for details on when it was communicated that City Council discretion was severely limited. Referring back to memoranda, the date cited was May 2017 - well after the TSPLOST vote and the repeated assurances that City Council would have discretion over any projects before they could move forward. TSPLOST passed by the narrowest of margins in Johns Creek. It’s fair to say that if residents had been told prior to their votes that we would have no discretion on project execution, then the narrow margin of victory for TSPLOST in Johns Creek would likely not have occurred.
Nobody on City Council suggested that nothing should be done to address congestion on Jones Bridge Road. Council Members Bradberry, Coughlin, Endres, and Zaprowski made the case for allowing for the consideration of options in the interest of seeking the best solution to balance all needs. Mayor Bodker, and Councilmen Broadbent and Lin have taken the position that we are bound by TSPLOST project definitions - definitions that were created by City Staff, but were never approved by City Council.
The final decision on Jones Bridge Road is not yet fully determined, and the Mayor’s veto may not be the last word in this debate. Indeed, the debate may have only started. Stay tuned as this case is going to have implications for TSPLOST projects across Johns Creek.