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Hill, Burns named to study committee

POSTED: July 7, 2014 9:42 p.m.
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Rep. Jon Burns

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Two of Effingham County’s three state legislation delegation members have been picked to serve on the Joint Study Committee on Critical Infrastructure Funding.

Sen. Jack Hill (R-Reidsville) was one of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s picks to the panel, and Rep. Jon Burns (R-Newington) was chosen by House Speaker David Ralston.

Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), the Senate Transportation Committee chairman, will chair the study committee. Rep. Jay Roberts (R-Ocilla), the House Transportation Committee chairman, will be the co-chair.

The committee was enacted by House Resolution 1573, which states transportation is a critical component of Georgia’s economic competitiveness. The state is home to 15 Fortune 500 companies, and transportation infrastructure for those firms. It is also home to the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, and the fastest-growing seaport, ninth-largest transit system, the nation’s third-largest freight rail network and 6.5 million drivers who travel 108.5 billion miles annually.

The state’s transportation investment per capita is less than most of its regional neighbors, and traffic congestion in the state is projected to increase by 25 percent in the next seven years, according to the resolution. It is predicted that current funding levels will cover, at best, 50 percent of the state’s greatest transportation needs. Georgia’s growth rate is twice the national average.

New sources and methods of funding transportation projects are needed to allow the transportation systems in Georgia to keep up with the needs of the population, according to the enacting resolution, and the General Assembly needs to study these issues to determine funding mechanisms for road transportation projects in Georgia.

Also appointed were Sens. Brandon Beach, Tyler Hill and David Lucas, and Reps. Terry England, Mark Hamilton and Calvin Smyre. Other appointees include Steve Green, the former chairman of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the Georgia Ports Authority, and Edward Lindsey, who is stepping down after five terms in the state House.

The executive directors of the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia and the Georgia Municipal Association, and the presidents of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and Georgia Chamber of Commerce also are being tapped for the committee.

“Transportation has been a key to our region’s successful past and is a critical concern for our future,” Lindsey said. “In the 19th century, we were created as a railroad hub. In the 20th ccentury, we made our great leap forward due in large part to the Atlanta International Airport. As a result, we continue to be viewed as an international magnate for new business and growth.

“However, metropolitan areas — even historically great ones like metro Atlanta — are perpetually either in a period of growth and greater prosperity or steady decline,” Lindsey continued. “There is no standing still.  We either attack our problems head on and make a better future for ourselves and our children today, or sit back and watch our past successes slip away into the history books.

“Our transportation challenge in the 21st century is to avoid drowning in the commuter quagmire created by our earlier success and emerge with solutions that will take us to even greater heights on the national and international stage.”

The committee will make its recommendations to the legislature by Nov. 30 and may conduct meetings at places and times it deems necessary or convenient in order to complete its work.

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