GDOT Outlines Need for Major Hike in Highway Funding

Dave Williams

Thursday, December 14th, 2023

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Georgia will need to spend at least $81 billion on transportation improvements by 2050 to keep people and freight moving on highways that otherwise will becoming increasingly congested, state Commissioner of Transportation Russell McMurry warned Wednesday.

“There’s a lot to be done,” McMurry told members of the State Transportation Board toward the end of a presentation heavy with positive yet alarming statistics.

Manufacturing, agricultural production, and warehouse distribution are all expected to grow exponentially in Georgia by 2050, resulting in a doubling of freight tonnage from 2015, the last time Georgia lawmakers passed major transportation funding legislation.

The increased traffic that growth will bring will cause the costs businesses will be forced to absorb to rise from $14.4 million in 2015 to $33.3 million by 2015, a 131% increase, McMurry said.

The state embarked on a major transportation improvement program in 2016 that includes significant upgrades to interstate highway interchanges, widening of interstate highways, construction of commercial vehicle lanes, and last-mile road improvements near the Port of Savannah.

Work also is underway to widen roads and build new interchanges surrounding two major electric-vehicle plants east of Atlanta and west of Savannah.

But of the $81 billion in work McMurry outlined on Wednesday, only $26 billion is in the state’s pipeline. McMurry said planning for the projects not drawn up as yet must begin soon.

“The projects we build and develop take a long time,” he said. “It’s easily a decade to do big things,”

McMurry said other states in the Southeast that are spending more per capita on transportation projects than Georgia are getting the money to pay for those improvements from budget surpluses.

Georgia is sitting on an unprecedented $16 billion surplus, including $11 billion in undesignated funds.

Georgia businesses could join forces with the state Department of Transportation in pushing for major new funding commitments for highway improvements.

McMurry said he already has given the presentation he made Wednesday to the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

About Dave Williams

Dave Williams has covered state government and politics in Georgia since 1999 and for several years before that, covered Georgia’s congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. He began his career in radio news in Florida and Upstate New York.