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Georgia has a ‘generational opportunity’ to invest in transportation

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(The Center Square) — Georgia has a “generational opportunity” to further invest in transportation projects statewide, the chair of the Senate Transportation Committee said on Monday.

“I think we probably have a generational opportunity to allocate existing revenue sources from our surplus to some of these transportation projects,” state Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, said during a Senate Transportation Committee hearing.

“Personally, I would love to see us do that without having to raise new revenue, without having to do line-item tax increases as has been done in the past,” Dolezal added. “We think we’ve got about 10 years left, at least, in the gas tax. The gas tax has been relatively resilient; that $2.2 billion number has been pretty consistent. But eventually, we know that that will change.”

During Monday’s hearing, Georgia Department of Transportation Planning Director Jannine Miller told lawmakers that freight moving on the state’s roads is projected to nearly double in weight to 900 million tons and more than double in value to $1.6 trillion by 2050.

“That translates into congestion costs,” Miller said. “If we do nothing, if we expand our network in no significant ways, our delay is going to more than double.”

State transportation officials have estimated needing to spend $90 billion over 25 years to improve traffic flow on the state’s roads, particularly along key freight corridors. “That $90 billion worth of improvements would improve freight, but it would also improve people flow as well,” Miller said.

The fiscal 2024 budget state lawmakers approved last year included roughly $4 billion for the state’s transportation department, including more than $2.2 billion in state money and more than $1.5 billion in federal taxpayer funds.

“Put that 90 billion in perspective,” Dolezal said. “We’re currently spending about $4 billion a year with our existing needs, and all those existing needs fund all the other projects that are in all of our districts that may or may not have anything to do with these identified freight corridors.”

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has recommended an additional $1.5 billion in state funds for the Georgia Department of Transportation for projects that “directly help move commuters and freight.”

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