Thursday, January 8, 2009

Georgia Transportation Agencies Unite to Seek More Money

If you think MARTA, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority and operator of that city's subway system, is the only Georgia transportation agency with budget woes, think again. MARTA has joined with the Atlanta Regional Commission, Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and Georgia Department of Transportation to request more state funding in order to maintain operations and keep capital projects on schedule, the Atlanta Constitution reports.

While MARTA faced a $57 million budget gap due largely to lower-than forecast sales tax revenue, the transportation department says it may have to cut $888 million of highway projects in the Atlanta region this year. That's party because falling gasoline prices mean motorists are paying less in fuel taxes.

The chairs of the four agencies intend to write a joint letter to the governor and state legislature warning that Georgia "is in danger of losing hundreds of thousands of potential jobs in the coming decades if transportation is left underfunded."

A study commissioned by the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority found this since the 1980s the state has had the second lowest level of per capita transportation of any state; only Tennessee spent less.

Another reason to act: the state could lose "millions of badly needed federal economic stimulus dollars for transportation, if it does not act with one voice." At a transportation summit Wednesday hosted by the Atlanta Regional Commission, agency executives stressed the need for the state to have projects that will be "shovel-ready" within 120 of President-elect Obama signing an economic stimulus package and to be prepared to come up with 100 percent in matching funds. They also warned against inter-agency turf wars.

“If we go up with everyone talking their own way we will get cannibalized while other states go to the bank,” said MARTA General Manger Beverly Scott.

It remains to be seen how the Georgia legislature will respond to the situation. While 74 percent of voters polled by a business group called Get Georgia Moving said they wanted a referendum on increasing the state sales tax to fund transportation, nothing might get done this year because Republican legislative leaders say a vote on sales tax matters cannot take place until 2010.

Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson said he:
"is committed to presenting a workable solution to the voters in 2010. But first, we must develop a comprehensive statewide transportation improvement plan that meets our present and future needs."

1 comment:

  1. If you’ve ever tried to travel around metro Atlanta during rush hour, you know just how important transportation funding is to our state. One immediate solution to the overwhelming traffic congestion is to lower our demand for use of the current system. Even if we had billions of dollars to start building new infrastructure tomorrow, that process takes time – and we’ll still be stuck in traffic, losing productivity and decreasing economic competitiveness. Alternatives to driving alone, like transit and teleworking, can take almost 300,000 cars off the road each day. Twenty-five percent of metro Atlantans report that their job functions support telework if their employers would allow it. Imagine the positive impact on our roads if all those folks worked from home just once a week – or rode the train. Metro Atlanta might start to look more attractive to expanding businesses that pass us over due to congestion, which could be costing us 320,000 jobs each year. Other options include carpooling, vanpooling, biking and walking. All of these options help reduce demand on our over-taxed system and help stretch personal budgets during tough economic times. The need for transportation reform is clear, but while state leaders work to identify new funding sources and better funding models for the future, the smart approach is to concentrate on making the very best use of the transportation infrastructure we have today.