Transportation officials are talking up alternatives to a fuel tax increase to help pay for road and bridge work in Georgia.
A joint House and Senate Transportation Funding Study Committee was told the state faces a $7.7 billion transportation funding shortfall. To make matters worse, it’s becoming more difficult for the state’s fuel tax to foot the bill for transportation projects.
Legislators were told that reduced federal road funding and more fuel-efficient vehicles are augmenting the problems.
A U.S. Department of Transportation official testified at the meeting that one option worth looking into to ease the burden on the state is partnering with private groups.
Tyler Duvall, assistant secretary for transportation policy with the DOT, said the fuel tax cannot keep up with the demands of aging infrastructure, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.
“We’re at the point where we’ve got to experiment,” Duvall said about the funding.
Tapping into public-private partnerships and toll roads is worth considering if it means getting needed projects completed, he said.
Senate Transportation Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, was open to the idea. He said tolling and private ventures could eliminate the need to increase fuel taxes, the Times Free Press reported.
Mullis said a public-private partnership could be used to complete a rail running from Atlanta to Chattanooga. The line is sought to ease congestion on Interstate 75.
Special lanes also could be added to I-75 that users would pay to drive on, Mullis said.
House Transportation Chairman Vance Smith, R-Pine Mountain, said three funding options are being considered. The options are to increase the state’s fuel tax, create regional local option sales taxes or do nothing at all.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Georgia in 2007, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor