2015 Transportation Summit: Blueprint for Future Projects in Georgia

John Tabellione

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

Over 700 Georgia engineering, transportation and public policy leaders gathered at the Georgia World Congress Center recently to lay out a blueprint for the state’s future strategic projects and their economic effect. 

The 21st annual Transportation Summit sponsors—American Council of Engineering Companies of Georgia (ACEC); Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT); Georgia Transportation Alliance (GTA); and, Georgia Chamber of Commerce—took a 360-degree approach. The summit agenda covered the waterfront, as well as all other types of intermodal transportation.  

Following GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry’s opening speech stressing the significance of The Transportation Funding Act of 2015, GDOT’s Chief Engineer, Meg Pirkle gave a presentation on the importance of the new legislation and the significance of its effect on upcoming projects. 

During the first panel discussion, “Expanding Freight and Commuter Mobility,” MARTA Board Chairman, Robbie Ashe, noted that recent newcomers, Athena Health, NCR and Mercedes specified the importance of locating their respective firms close to MARTA stations. MARTA’s turnaround from shortfalls to a $35 million surplus indicates a significant improvement for the Atlanta transit system. The forecasts for economic development within a quarter of a mile of a MARTA station over the next five to ten years is staggering.” 

Ashe added that competitive metro areas in other states may have been passing MARTA in scope of service, but that plans are underway for a $5 billion expansion out to “Windward Parkway, South DeKalb County and to the Emory/CDC area.” The northward expansion can help to achieve “twenty-two thousand less vehicles on State Road 400, allowing freight to move more efficiently.” 

Kofi Smith from the Atlanta Airlines Terminal Corporation, a consortium of local air carriers, pointed out how critical Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport was to the relocation decisions made by Mercedes and Porsche. He also commented that the airport will likely achieve a milestone of handling 100 million passengers in 2015. Furthermore, a sixth runway and a new cargo facility will serve to enhance the airport’s viability. “The purpose of the cargo facility is to develop the economy around the nearby community”

Jannine Miller of the Center for Innovation for Logistics emphasized that the 329 new companies who relocated to Georgia in 2014, investing $5 billion, counted on Georgia’s roads, rail, ocean, and air conveyances. She stated, “Nothing moves without technology. Finance, inventory and tracking all are integrated and companies will need to share information.”

Suzann Murtha of Atkins Design, Engineering and Consulting, continued the theme of data interchange in the subsequent panel discussion, “How Technology is Changing the Future of Transportation.” She stated, “Cars will connect to each other at rates of 10 data feeds per second,” transmitting speeds and position points that could help to reduce fatal crashes by 82%. 

According to Christian Kotscher of MetroTech Net, Inc., UPS believes accelerated real time data delivery can save $100 million annually. Such technology could save one minute per truck each day, preventing billions of gallons of fuel from being wasted due to traffic delays. In addition to reducing travel delays, such technology would also provide better traffic navigation, reduce VOC emissions and improve safety.  

Kotscher noted, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” hence the critical need for data, both digital and video. In addition, this type of information can be shared between silos by groups such as Georgia Tech, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and AT&T Mobility.  

Jeff Cashman from Manhattan Associates, explained that companies need to optimize their freight costs and know where their trucks are located. Using advanced logistics technology, they can better help retailers plan their asset management. While privacy remains an issue, methodology as to “how to secure data going in and out will evolve,” said Cashman.

Keynote Speaker, U.S. Congressman Rob Woodall, was introduced by Chris Clark, Georgia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, as a “champion…a workhorse, not a show horse.” In his speech, Representative Woodall spoke of the need to reduce red tape, and the need for one NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) document. Red tape ties up legislation implementation and increases costs. 

Furthermore, Woodall emphasized the need to rely upon local stewards who are closer to the projects. Woodall said, “The biggest threat to the United States is that there are too few voices in the room. Your company or organization knows more (about transportation issues), so call your Representative or Senator. It’s a team sport.”

He added, “For the first time in over a decade, Washington is on the verge of implementing long-term legislation that provides the certainty our states, communities and job-creators need to move forward. With a House and Senate bill complete, I’m excited to be one of those headed to conference where we’ll iron out our differences and send a final bill to the President for signature. It’s been far too long coming, but I’m proud of the work that has gotten us to this point, and I’m grateful for the partnership of all those here at home who have made it possible.”

A dozen afternoon breakout sessions delved into more detailed specifications, such as environmental act approvals, geo-technical engineering, 2016 legislative preview, construction site issues and project delivery improvements. 

In a summary statement, Michael Sullivan, President and CEO, ACEC Georgia, said, “The Georgia Transportation Summit has been successful for decades, but our partnership with the Georgia Transportation Alliance and Georgia Chamber has elevated this program to be the premier transportation event in Georgia.” 


About John Tabellione

John Tabellione is an award-winning, professional business writer, complemented by over twenty-five years of strategic communication responsibilities as a Marketing, New Business Development and National Account Sales Executive in consumer goods and commercial industries. 

Experience with Fortune 500 companies, as well as with smaller firms and non-profits, encompassing a variety of products, including those of Georgia-Pacific, Kimberly-Clark and Stanley Works. 

John has a B.A. in English from Fairfield University and an MBA in Marketing from the University of Hartford. In addition, he has studied Russian at the Defense Language Institute at Syracuse University, and Italian language and culture at Kennesaw State University.