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Transportation must be priority at state level
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Forsyth County News

The traditional declaration of “sine die” brought the 2014 session of the Georgia General Assembly to a close Thursday, ending one of the quickest and most efficient legislative gatherings in recent memory.

It remains to be seen how many of the bills winning approval in the both legislative chambers during the sessions 40 working days ultimately will be signed into law by the governor, and only time will tell what the ultimate impact is on each of those that does earn the signature of the state’s top executive.

As always, there were plenty of diverse issues discussed and debated, from Medicare to medical marijuana, income tax limits to constitutional conventions. But all in all it was a workman like session without much of the distracting rhetoric and controversy of other years. Which is a good thing.

While the ultimate impact of this  session won’t be known for years to come, there was one bit of low-profile business conducted under the radar that we hope will have positive ramifications in the near future.

House Resolution 1573, sponsored by Rep. Jay Roberts of Ocilla and Sen. Steve Gooch of Dah-lonega, will create a Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding.

We know that yet another committee to conduct yet another study isn’t going to immediately solve any problems on any front, but it is encouraging to see attention focused on what continues to be one of the state’s most desperate needs.

When state officials were pushing Georgians to support an ill-fated regional based transportation sales tax not so long ago, they infamously said on more than one occasion the tax had to pass because there was “no Plan B.” And when the plan failed in most of Georgia, most notably the metro Atlanta area, it became obvious there really was no Plan B upon which the state could rely.

The introductory comments of  HR 1573 captures concisely some of the critical issue in the state’s transportation debate:

• Georgia is home to the world’s busiest airport, fastest growing seaport, ninth largest transit system, third largest freight rail network in the U.S. and 6.5 million drivers who travel 108.5 billion miles each year.

• The federal government has demonstrated an increasing inability to deliver a consistent, predictable transportation funding environment.

• Georgia’s growth rate is twice the national average.

• Georgia’s transportation investment per capita is less than most of her regional neighbors

• Traffic congestion in Georgia is projected to increase by 25 percent in the next seven years.

• Georgia’s transportation leadership has predicted that current funding levels can, at best, cover 50 percent of our greatest needs.

• New sources and methods of funding transportation projects are needed to allow the transportation system in Georgia to keep up with the needs of the population.

The newly formed committee’s task is to study transportation needs and funding options over the course of the next eight months, make recommendation by Nov. 30 and disband.

We can only hope that this particular committee encounters success in achieving its mission. We are far behind where we need to be in planning for the future, and desperately in need of ideas for funding infrastructure projects.