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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Transportation committee releases its results. Transit's mentioned, but what kind ... it doesn't say.

Atlantans may just get to see their cash go toward their transportation needs after all.

An influential joint committee of state politicos this morning released its eagerly anticipated laundry list of how Georgia should attack its people-moving mess and generate the cash for its woefully underfunded transportation projects. The committee, led by state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, traveled throughout the state over the past year to pitch and solicit ideas. (Keep in mind that a lot of these suggestions are basically asking the General Assembly to say with a vote that it thinks some projects are "cool," and don't really suggest the state pony up funds for them.)

The most pressing suggestion offered could very well be the foundation to building all the others: How do we get the funding? The committee straddled the fence, suggesting legislation for both and opting not to deem either one of the statewide-tax/regional-sales-tax strategies edge the better choice. Georgians may see elements of both ideas mixed together. The sales and motor-fuel tax, the committee said, should remain the same.

The rest of the goodies follow after the jump ...

The other suggestions: Create a state infrastructure bank, primarily funded through state and federal sources; use design-build contracts, where one firm is in charge of a project from start to finish -- proponents say the approach saves time and money; invest in Georgia's 200-plus airports and prepare for the continued railroad-freight rage; create a statewide transportation plan that would be updated every five years.

In terms of transit -- well, it's mentioned, but it's not really spelled out what mode should be employed. Could be rail, could be bus, could be a giant slingshot. It also said the General Assembly should support a high-speed rail line -- magnetic levitation, specifically -- between Atlanta and Chattanooga. That's just support -- not pay for it.

There are lots of "privates" dotting the committees suggestions, ranging from DOT relying on private companies for maintenance and all the way to signing contracts for large projects. This is something to continue to look out for.

Also, the committee suggests clearing up the alphabet soup in the state. There are numerous planning agencies -- ARC, DOT, GRTA, SRTA, TPB, XYZ, KGB, etc. -- and they're often operating somewhat on top of one another. It's a jumbled mess. The group says to clearly define what each agency does. As someone who writes about the mess, I kindly agree with the committee.

I've been getting e-mail releases all morning from groups applauding the suggestions. The Atlanta Regional Commission and Metro Chamber are cool with 'em. I'll keep you updated if others pitch a fit.

For a fine and dandy presentation of the committee's ideas, click here.

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