If we are to continue Georgia’s growth and prosperity, we must solve our transportation issues for the entire state. Adding a lane along a busy interstate, extending a rail line by a couple of miles or simply allowing Metro Atlanta to tax itself won’t solve our problems.
For the last two years, a group of dedicated stakeholders has been working together to solve these problems. Many of these stakeholders recognize, as do I, that it is time to think bigger and develop a comprehensive statewide transportation improvement plan.
That’s why I’m confident in the leadership of House Transportation Chairman Vance Smith and his committee to work towards a plan that includes projects of statewide significance while providing funds for local transportation needs.
This type of approach will improve our transportation infrastructure in every corner of the state. Whether it is Fulton County, the heart of the region’s economic engine, or Chatham County, home to the fastest growing container port in the country, these economic engines will benefit. But other counties, whether they are rural like Early or Walker or metro-suburbs like Paulding, Henry or Walton, will gain from this plan as well.
Improving the state’s transportation network will allow us to remain at the forefront as we compete for jobs on a regional, national and global scale. Moreover, anyone who has to commute a half-hour, hour, or in some cases, two hours to work knows that better transportation means a better quality of life.
All modes of transportation must be part of this plan. It should also include infrastructure enhancements like interchange improvements, major arterials, multi-modal stations, pedestrian facilities, bridge rehabilitation, expanding lane capacity and further developing existing corridors for freight and economic development purposes. We must also continue to explore the use of public private initiatives.
As one example, we could remove approximately 60 percent of all tractor-trailer traffic from Atlanta’s congested roads just by routing the trucks bound for other cities around Atlanta. This can be accomplished by expanding and improving existing road and rail corridors outside of the Metro Atlanta area. By improving infrastructure throughout the rest of the state, we will provide congestion relief in the city of Atlanta and all Georgians will benefit.
A transportation plan that meets these goals will require additional funding and a constitutional amendment that must be approved by Georgia voters in 2010. Our current transportation policies are outdated and were designed for the Georgia of the past. A true statewide transportation improvement plan must empower new transportation policies to achieve our stated goals.
As the General Assembly convenes, we will continue to build on our past progress, put good policy above politics and develop a transportation plan for now and the future that meets the needs of all of Georgia.
Rep. Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram) is the Georgia Speaker of the House.