Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Todd Long confirmed as Georgia transportation planning director

Posted By on Wed, Aug 19, 2009 at 5:24 PM

click to enlarge Planning Director Todd Long
  • Planning Director Todd Long

The man who'll help Georgians stop dying slow painful deaths sitting in gridlock was unanimously confirmed this morning as the state's first transportation planning director.

Todd Long, a transportation-planning veteran who was nominated to the post by Gov. Sonny Perdue, faced final questions from the House Transportation Committee this morning.

The planning director position was created during a Perdue-helmed overhaul of Georgia's transportation power hierarchy earlier this year. The governor had originally proposed neutering the state Department of Transportation and placing decision-making power in the hands of a new state agency — an agency largely overseen by himself.

State lawmakers, clever jackals that they are, rewrote most of the proposal near the end of the legislative session. What came out leaves GDOT intact but created the transportation planning director position.

In his new capacity, Long and newly elected GDOT Commissioner Vance Smith will craft a list of transportation projects across the state to submit to the governor, which he will then check off. Long stressed during a subcommittee meeting last week that he won't be a lapdog for the governor.

Questions during today's easy-going confirmation hearing covered a range of issues, including public-private partnerships, toll lanes and red tape among transportation agencies. Long has previously said GDOT needs additional funding, supports public-private partnerships and thinks

State Rep. Ralph Long, D-Atlanta, asked the nominee about the state's readiness to take advantage of federal funding for high-speed rail. Long said the state is applying for funds, but added that much of Georgia's rail infrastructure is outdated — pointing to the maximum 35 mph speed that trains must respect in some spots from Atlanta to Birmingham. He said he and the governor agree that rail could be a viable option, but it must be fast enough to compete with air travel. And the state's got a lot of ground to cover to get there.

"Atlanta's well positioned to be a hub for rail," Long responded. "[But] to move that up to high speed you've got to build a lot of new high-speed lines across the state. It can be done. But it comes at a cost."

(Courtesy GDOT)

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