Georgia continues to be a leader in the nation in freight transportation and logistics, especially with the Port of Savannah growing by leaps and bounds. The Port of Savannah is the single largest and fastest-growing container terminal in America. However, for the freight industry to continue to grow, we must invest in transportation infrastructure throughout our state.
The budget for the Georgia Department of Transportation includes increases for the capital construction program, additional funding for local maintenance and improvement grants and routine maintenance, and recognition of additional federal funds that will go toward capital maintenance. In addition, the budget for Capital Construction includes directives to use both state and federal funds to improve freight efficiency and truck safety on Georgia highways. This budget also provides for initiatives to enhance broadband access in underserved areas using state rights-of-way and promote safety and innovation on rural roadways. For more information on funding for GDOT projects, visit www.GARoads.org.
The budget includes an additional $3.1 million to restore a cut to the Georgia Infrastructure Bank. The GTIB provides grants and loans to community improvement districts and local governments to accelerate road and bridge projects. These projects enhance mobility and drive economic development in communities across Georgia. There is also $12.5 million in the budget bond package to upgrade state-owned short-line railroads to Class II standards that will help reduce truck traffic on state highways.
I was proud to sign onto House Bill 588, sponsored by the Chairman of the Transportation Committee, Representative Rick Jasperse, that clarifies the definition of “public benefit” in the context of public-private partnerships for the Georgia Freight Railroad Program. The Georgia Freight Railroad Program enhances our state’s investment in freight rail projects for the benefit of the public and supports a safe and balanced transportation system for the state.
Under this refined definition, these projects must enhance public safety, improve mobility of goods, mitigate congestion, enhance trade and economic development, improve air quality or land use, reduce public expenditures by improving transportation efficiency or preservation of infrastructure, or other public benefits that can be identified by the State Transportation Board. The public benefit must also align with goals in the statewide strategic transportation plan. Georgia Department of Transportation staff will also begin reporting projects to the GDOT board to provide the most significant public benefit.
Closer to home, I know that many in the Statesboro area were saddened to hear of the passing of Arthur Howard in 2019. During the 2020 Session, I, along with the late Senator Jack Hill, sponsored a resolution that would dedicate a portion of State Route 17 in Mr. Howard’s memory. I felt very fortunate to recently attend the road-naming ceremony where Mr. Howard’s friends and family shared their memories of Mr. Howard and the impact he had on our community.
Please do not hesitate to call (404.656.5052), e-mail, or participate on Facebook to share your thoughts and concerns. It is an honor to represent you in the General Assembly, and I look forward to seeing you soon.
Jon Burns represents District 159 in the Georgia General Assembly, where he serves as the House majority leader.