Coastal Sense

The Politics of Transportation… by clintmurphy
November 21, 2007, 2:02 am
Filed under: transportation

Some know that I Chair the Citizens Advisory Committee for the Chatham Urban Transportation Study and sit on the Policy Committee as well.  In this role, I have learned a great deal about transportation planning and budgeting in our city, county, and state. 

Currently, our state is billions of dollars behind on road construction projects that are meant to improve transportation in our state.  As it stands now, it is highly unlikely our state will ever catch up.  Under discussion are various funding mechanisms to reduce the backlog of projects on hold and get things moving as well as proposals to generate more revenue.

Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and Speaker Richardson commissioned a study of our state DOT and found that Georgia takes quite longer in moving forward on transportation projects than any of our border states.  These delays contribute greatly to the increased costs of road construction.  This is an important aspect that must be addressed in any reforms. 

However, one thing that ALSO must be addressed is the outdated singular focus on roads as a means of addressing transportation improvements. 

Transit, ride-share, bikeways, and sidewalks NEED to be a part of the equation.  Currently bikeways and sidewalks are treated more as community amenities as opposed to viable transportation alternatives and thus get funded as such by our state DOT (forumla driven funding as transportation amenities).

Furthermore, funds for bikeways and sidewalks are being divided into too many bureaucratic programs that make it hard on transportation planners to be able to fully access, apply, and use the funds.  Instead of creating new programs that take more money to manage, the funds should be directed through the current programs that already exist or added to the funds for transportation amenities (the current way bikeways and sidewalks are funded).  This is not to say that the goal of the programs are not admirable, but we must ensure the best and most efficient delivery of the funds to meet their intended purpose. 

Now as for funding, most communities have been using LOST and SPLOST to fund transportation improvements.  If Chatham County and Savannah had the ability to bond out forward for 30 years these funds, we could likely address many of our transportation issues without further delays from the state. 

Legislators in Atlanta this winter need to look at allowing communities to bond out for 10, 15, and 30 year increments their LOST and SPLOST funds to be able to address their own transportation issues. 

Additionally, we need to encourage our legislators to look toward a freedom to fund mechanism that would allow local communities to set their own priorities on transportation as opposed to the heavily forumlated method that currently is handed down from the federal and state level. 

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