Providing Georgia with a 21st Century Transportation System
Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021
Accessibility and connectivity are critical factors in a region’s quality of life and economic competitiveness.
The growth and development of a region hinges on the ability of people and businesses to efficiently and safely access employment, customers, commerce, recreation, education and healthcare via multiple transportation modes.
Over the last decade, Georgia has experienced remarkable progress in developing its transportation and infrastructure network. The Peach State stabilized its road and bridge network in 2015 with HB170, its regional transit systems in 2018, and invested over $300 million in state money in the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. And, since 2012, over 70 communities have passed local option sales taxes for infrastructure.
Georgians recognize that strong political leadership on transportation issues is a critical component of its economic success. Ninety-three percent of Georgians use automobiles as their primary source of transportation and 43% believe that their road network is its greatest asset. Forty-nine percent of Georgians believe the state has primary responsibility for transportation infrastructure investment, and 51% are more likely to re-elect a politician who votes to increase transportation funding. Transportation builds communities, and Georgians recognize that.
During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we have learned how critical the state’s supply chain is to its quality of life and economic health. In April 2020, total vehicle travel in Georgia was 39% lower than the previous April; but by September, the decrease in travel had been reduced to 9% as Georgia’s economy began to recover.
Based on its location and strong economy, Georgia is uniquely positioned to become the transportation hub of the Southeast, if not the entire United States. Every year, $843 billion worth of goods are shipped to and from sites in Georgia, with trucks accounting for 76% of all shipping. The value of freight shipped annually in Georgia is anticipated to more than double by 2045, increasing by 115%.
But growing traffic congestion threatens to erode Georgia’s advantages as a logistics hub. More than half of Georgia’s urban interstate highways are congested. A recent report on the nation’s worst freight bottlenecks found that three out of the top ten nationally are in metro Atlanta.
Ensuring that Georgia provides a transportation system that is reliable, safe and well-maintained will be critical to achieving the state’s future economic potential. Working with the Georgia Transportation Alliance and the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia, TRIP, a national transportation research nonprofit, recently released a report that found that 22% of county-maintained roads in the state are in poor condition. Yet current funding will only allow for 12% of the miles of county-maintained roads in need of resurfacing and 8% of county-maintained roads in need of reconstruction to be addressed this year. The amount that county governments were able to spend on highways and bridges was 52% of the total amount needed. TRIP estimates that Georgia motorists are paying an additional $2.7 billion annually in vehicle operating costs due to driving on rough roads, which accelerates vehicle depreciation and increases the need for routine maintenance.
Fortunately, the Georgia Commission on Freight and Logistics has risen to the challenge. Established in 2019 by leaders at the State Capitol, this commission of business leaders and elected officials has been working hard to quantify Georgia’s opportunities for growth in the freight and logistics industry and is expected to produce substantive policy recommendations by the end of this year. These recommendations will form the foundation of policy changes that can solidify Georgia’s position as a global leader in freight and logistics. A responsive solution that expands current investment strategies and creates a long-term, dedicated stream of investment for multi-modal projects of statewide impact will allow Georgia to continue as the No. 1 state in which to do business.
Providing a safe, efficient and well-maintained 21st century transportation system will require long-term, sustainable funding, and it is critical to supporting economic growth, improved safety and quality of life throughout the area. A lack of reliable and adequate transportation funding could jeopardize the condition, efficiency and connectivity of the region’s transportation network and hamper economic growth.