This is an interesting development that may hurt commuter rail projects…
A little-noticed, 11th-hour insertion into the state budget apparently prevents the Georgia Department of Transportation from spending a dime of state funds on commuter rail projects, including the controversial Lovejoy line, without approval of the General Assembly.
The paragraph, tacked on during behind-the-scenes negotiations, has scuttled the purchase of 34 used passenger rail cars from New Jersey Transit that would have been used on a commuter rail line between downtown Atlanta and Lovejoy in south Clayton County.
The language caused the state DOT board on Thursday to let a deadline for the rail car purchase lapse without even discussing the deal at its monthly meeting, according to a DOT spokeswoman.
The provision, only recently discovered by state DOT officials, doesn’t carry the force of law but is a statement of the Legislature’s intent as to how the DOT should spend its money.
“The Legislature clearly said with the language in the appropriations bill that we can’t do an expense at all without running it through them,” said Vicki Gavalas, a DOT spokeswoman.
In Henry County, our Republican legislators have been fighting hard for a local referendum on the proposed Atlanta-Lovejoy commuter rail. Unfortunately there were state constitutional issues involved and the referendum was dropped.