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Higher taxes for a smoother commute? Metro Atlanta votes today.

Voters in metro Atlanta, where traffic congestion is notorious, go to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to tax themselves for a major infrastructure upgrade. Some say city's future is at stake, but tea partyers distrust money will be wisely spent.

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People queue up to vote Tuesday at Ashford Park Elementary school in Atlanta. Voters across Georgia are deciding whether to levy a penny sales tax to fund transportation projects in their communities.

John Spink/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP

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Just think about it: shiny new German-built streetcars zipping through a walkable midtown. And improved interchanges to clear up some of the worst bottlenecks in one of America’s most traffic-snarled cities. And a once-in-a-lifetime chance to add some transit sex appeal to a fading Southern behemoth fighting tooth and nail with Charlotte, N.C., and Houston for supremacy in business boosterism.

Yes, the bid to “untie Atlanta” is a bold one, an unprecedented coming-together of 10 metro counties to propose to area voters an increase in the sales-tax rate of one cent for 10 years, with the money to be used to fund 157 traffic-friendly projects ranging from road improvements to upgrades of the airport control tower.

But as voters go to the polls Tuesday, the push for metro Atlantans to tax themselves to buy a $7.2 billion infrastructure upgrade has become as bogged down as the morning commute on the dreaded downtown “Connector.”

If the Transportation Investment Act passes, supporters say it would be a historic moment, akin to the city becoming the host of the 1996 Olympics or building Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport into one of the world’s busiest. The binding referendum is, some say, a make-or-break moment for a city teetering on decline, and it has the strong backing of the local Chamber of Commerce.

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