Gov. Sonny Perdue today said he'd support the long-awaited commuter rail line between Atlanta and Griffin, pitching it as a "pilot program" for other routes in other parts of the state.
We turn to Dave Williams of the Atlanta Business Chronicle. He reports:
"We have not kept pace in our transportation infrastructure," Perdue said during a news conference at his Capitol office. "We need to catch up and make sure we plan for the future."
As recently as this year's legislative session, the governor stood on the sidelines as lawmakers debated a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed Georgians frustrated by ever-worsening traffic congestion to vote by region on whether to raise sales taxes to pay for needed transportation improvements. The legislation, which would have included public transit projects, failed by three votes in the Senate.
Perdue said he chose the Griffin project over a second planned commuter rail line linking Atlanta and Athens because substantial federal funds already are committed to the Griffin line. The southern route also offers fewer impediments to an agreement to share the tracks with freight trains operated by Norfolk Southern Corp., he said.
Yep, that's what the DOT board told us a couple of months ago, too. Click that link to read more about the train that will lead to Griffin. Perdue also told reporters he'd located the funding he promised last week to purchase sorely-needed buses for GRTA.
Perdue also announced that he has identified $13 million from various funding sources that he plans to use to buy an additional 28 buses for the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, which operates commuter bus routes across the metro area. He asked for the money last winter, but the legislature yanked it from the mid-year budget.
Get Georgia Moving, a coalition of more than 50 groups ranging from road builders to transit advocates who led the unfruitful push for additional funding for transportation during the last legislative session, applauded the governor's decision via press release:
"We commend the Governor for moving to address Georgia's transportation funding shortfall," said Charles Tarbutton, assistant vice president of Sandersville Railroad Company, chair of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of the Get Georgia Moving Coalition. For too long, Georgia has lacked the money to build the infrastructure we need to support our booming population and maintain our strong economy. As a result, badly needed projects are being canceled all across Georgia. This problem is affecting every corner of our state. It touches every one of the nearly 10 million people who call Georgia home. And it must be resolved.
"We applaud the Governor's leadership and are glad to see transportation being addressed at the highest level, said Bill Linginfelter, former Georgia State CEO for Wachovia Bank and former chairman of the transportation policy committee of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. Congestion is the number one problem every citizen deals with every day in metro Atlanta and the biggest threat to our quality of life and continued economic success. This problem is not new. It has been looming for at least 10 years. In a decade, metro Atlanta has gone from 15th- to 4th- to 2nd-worst traffic in the nation.
Any real solution must be immediate, generate enough funding to provide the relief we need, be open to all modes of transportation and have a meaningful impact on our quality-of-life and our economic competitiveness, said Joe Leonard, retired chairman of AirTran Airways, chairman of the transportation policy committee of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of the Get Georgia Moving Coalition. We applaud the Governor for engaging experts on a comprehensive solution and we look forward to a plan that produces tangible, immediate and significant results.
In other news, pigs are drunk with flight-induced glee.
UPDATE: After the jump, view Perdue's statement.
Governor Perdue Announces IT3 Transportation Plan
Also announces support for commuter rail and additional GRTA buses
ATLANTA Today Governor Sonny Perdue announced a new statewide transportation partnership called Investing in Tomorrows Transportation Today or IT3. IT3 is designed to bring the Department of Transportation, Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, the General Assembly, local partners and the executive branch together to formulate strategies that will improve transportation infrastructure throughout the state. As we did in education, we will transform the way we look at transportation from counting how much money we spend to an outcomes-based investment strategy to ensure we create a 21st century transportation network throughout the state, said Governor Sonny Perdue.
Throughout the summer and fall, the states transportation agencies will be working in collaboration with the General Assemblys transportation committees and stakeholders throughout Georgia to develop a business case for transportation investment. Included will be the definition of strategic goals and policies, benchmarking with other states transportation successes and examination of ways to financially support outcomes.
During the press conference, Governor Perdue announced that the state will fund 28 new GRTA buses using a combination of state and federal dollars. The Xpress service has proven a successful way to provide reliable commute alternatives for residents of metropolitan Atlanta who have work destinations in the Downtown and Midtown areas of the city of Atlanta. These additions to the Xpress fleet are based on consumer demand on routes originating in Conyers, Stockbridge, Newnan, Buford, Douglasville, Canton and Snellville. These buses will serve new routes and supply more bus departure times on existing routes.
I think with standing room only on buses and gas at four dollars a gallon, we need more transportation options, and thats what I am committed to do by funding additional GRTA buses, said Governor Perdue. One bus can take up to 57 cars off the road and we understand with the addition of these new buses increased ridership will ease congestion.
Governor Perdue also voiced his strong support for a commuter rail pilot project from to Griffin, previously known as the Lovejoy line. The extension of the line from Lovejoy to Griffin is anticipated to improve ridership by 40 percent while only requiring a marginal increase in operating costs. GDOT will work in partnership with GRTA in executing the next steps in bringing the line to fruition. Such steps will include obtaining commitments from local governments to partner with state in supporting operations on the Griffin line. Among the criteria for success will include providing reliable service that saves commuters time and money.
I am fully prepared to support GDOTs efforts on commuter rail and making the pilot a reality, said Governor Perdue. After looking at the operational costs that Ive seen it makes sense to go all the way to Griffin using this pilot program.
Governor Perduewas joined at the press conference by DOT Commissioner Gena Abraham and members of the DOT and GRTA boards.
After nearly two decades in state government at various levels, I believe that this is the best state transportation board I have had the privilege to work with, Governor Perdue said. I am eager to continue working closely with them and the General Assembly in this critical effort.
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