Getting the picture of Georgia’s transportation needs

Transportation funding was the headline issue in this year’s legislative session months before it even began. So far, the talk has been mostly about dollar signs and numbers that rhyme with “zillion.”

Those are the sorts of words that usually make Republicans cringe when the idea is to increase spending instead of cutting it. That includes Gov. Nathan Deal, who, throughout his re-election campaign and in the run-up to his second inaugural, was content to nod toward the problem of traffic congestion and leave details and lofty rhetoric alike to others.

But that changed substantially this past week. During his annual State of the State address to legislators, Deal offered the most arresting image yet in the transportation-funding debate.

“We are currently operating,” Deal noted, “at a (funding) rate that requires over 50 years to resurface every state road in Georgia. So, if your road is paved when you graduate high school, by the time it is paved again you will be eligible for Social Security.”

There’s some perspective for your potholes.

Here’s what that looks like altogether: The Georgia Department of Transportation estimates an annual need of $340 million for repaving state routes and highways. Currently, we spend about $125 million.

Add other aspects of roadway maintenance, from filling cracks to replacing guardrails, along with bridge repairs and replacements that won’t be in the budget anytime soon, and the total comes to almost $12 billion over the next two decades. And we aren’t even talking yet about county roads, or building anything new.

But as I already mentioned, we’ve heard lots of numbers. What has been missing from this debate are illustrations, like Deal’s high school-to-retirement paving gap, of what needs to happen but isn’t.

Legislators are loath to commit to a hard and fast project list, and I understand why. The politics of making a statewide list are daunting, no matter how much additional money they commit to spending. In any case, letting politicians decide what to build is a mistake from the past we don’t need to repeat.

Still, some examples would help. Such as these, which I’ve based on information GDOT gave the task force that spent last year studying the funding issue:

Absent more money, beyond that for repaving and other maintenance, the long-delayed deepening of the port at Savannah could be finished for a decade and a half before the state even begins rebuilding I-16’s interchanges with I-95 and I-75. Both are already choke points for freight and passengers, even before the expansion boosts truck traffic by a projected 50 percent within 10 years.

A rookie on this year’s Atlanta Braves team could break Cal Ripken’s record streak of consecutive games played — 2,632 of them, or more than 16 seasons’ worth — before even seeing ground broken for improvements to the congested top end of I-285, from near the new ballpark at I-75 across to Doraville at I-85.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a future I’d rather avoid.

Reader Comments 0

19 comments
hamiltonAZ
hamiltonAZ

Imperatives facing Georgia:

Make health care more accessible to more people;

Create transit solutions in the Capitol region; and

Develop funding and policy initiatives to improve education.

AvailableName
AvailableName

"'We are currently operating,' Deal noted, 'at a (funding) rate that requires over 50 years to resurface every state road in Georgia. So, if your road is paved when you graduate high school, by the time it is paved again you will be eligible for Social Security.'”


The good Governor seems, despite no real interest in funding transportation than he does providing health care.  Looks to me like we are on our way to hell in a hand basket on most fronts, other than tax breaks to corporations.

Bumper15
Bumper15

"There’s some perspective for your potholes."

Another perspective is the shops that do wheel and suspension repair, our pothole riddled roads are keeping them busy. Had to LOL recently, the counter guy at my local garage told me the GOP state senator who lives in my 'hood, and who no doubt resists spending money on transportation, brouht in his car to replace a pothole-induced bent wheel.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

I missed the speech.  


Did Deal even support any way to fund this?  You know, as a State Leader?  Anything other than "it's going to be hard"? 


Plumb Krazy
Plumb Krazy

I am ready. Do away with GATE cards. End giving business sales tax exemptions for energy use the rest of us dont get. Make airlines and railroads pay the same fuel taxes the common man has to. Let Arthur Blank bhis own stuff. etc etc etc In short, undo all the Republican pandering to their special interest of the last 16 years and build some stuff. I am ready, but I aint ready if just us common folks has to foot the bill with all the freebies for the few still in place.

kitty72
kitty72

Republicans have to temper their extreme dislike of spending money. The shape of our roads will keep business out of Georgia if we don't do something not to mention the safety issues for all of us.


Perhaps a good idea to temper the dislike is to examine efficiency and how the money is spent to make sure we get the most bang for our bucks.


BTW this idea is from a Liberal who dislikes inefficient use of our tax dollars just as much as Conservatives. :) I suspect you will get the same sentiment from most of our left leaners. No one likes their tax dollars wasted.

Nobody_Knows
Nobody_Knows

Let us be honest here.  Republicans have backed themselves into a corner with all the years of no new taxes slogans and campaigns. 

The consultants can spin the message all they want but at the end of the day the state of GA doesn't have the required revenues to meet current and future transportation requirements.  

Not many with commonsense are doubting the need for additional revenue. It is just how to sell the tax increase and where will the increase come from at this point. 

Not sure why Republicans are fretting this so much.  It isn't like the state is going to be voting Democrat overnight. 

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

Cobb gets to buy a stadium and ride on crummy roads,  priorities......

MANGLER
MANGLER

Now that the more sparsely populated areas of Georgia have these wonderful divided rural highways connecting farming communities, maybe the legislature can start using some of that money in the more densely populated areas.  Not that I mind having 4 lanes connecting Baxley to Alma, or Camilla to Cairo.

And I still don't see a gas tax being the way to go.  Certain roads being tolled and eventually paying per mile driven on them just seems like it would fit right into that whole "personal responsibility" narrative, no?

lvg
lvg

Put toll booths back on 400 and all highways into Atlanta and you have your transportation money. $12.00 toll to enter Manhattan-both ways.Add .50 gas tax to cost when price falls below $3.00 a gallon

straker
straker

"legislators are loath to commit to a hard and fast project list"


That's because they would lose all that pork money they now enjoy for some public and much private use.


I see all talk and no action in our deteriorating road future.

332-206
332-206

Not to worry.

By the time 'Pubs acknowledge the future, many of these roads will be under water...

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

Try spending the entire transportation tax on transportation.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

My you are up early today, Kyle! Hope you had a good MLK Day!

Have you seen the study conducted on the Interstates in Savannah? It shows segment by segment deficiencies.Same type of study was done for the Interstates in Atlanta showing operational deficiencies.  I'm starting to think that the repubs are all rhetoric. Waiting for someone to say "But we need to  see what the Feds will do before we make a decision."


The only way the naysayers will support or even allow a gas tax increase is that the Gov and legislature has to show the statistics like overlaying the State Routes, and show what the effect to our state's and nation's economy will be. A very informed educational program is needed. With the price of gas down, NOW is the time to address our needs.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@LogicalDude He is still negotiating that point with House and Senate leaders. I'm told we should see something by the end of this week or next week.