Georgia, Alabama governors offer transportation plans

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, January 12, 2012

Talk about transportation funding is underway at state capitols around the country. Two governors in neighboring Southern states have announced their plans to address infrastructure needs.

In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal used his State of the State speech to call for improvements to the state’s transportation network that promote efficiency.

“That means roads on which traffic and freight move freely, ports that handle bigger ships, and airports that process people and packages more efficiently,” Deal said Tuesday, Jan. 10, in prepared remarks.

The Republican governor is also pushing for support on upcoming transportation tax votes. In July, voters around the state will cast ballots on regional transportation referendums that would add a 1-cent sales tax for projects.

Voters in each of the state’s 12 regions will cast ballots this summer on 1-cent sales tax referendums for a predetermined list of road, bridge and transit projects.

During his joint session speech Deal also mentioned the recent decision to halt a public-private partnership project for Atlanta’s Northwest Corridor. The state backed away from plans to add managed lanes to portions of interstates 75 and 575.

Deal said he is “opposed to contracting away Georgia’s sovereignty for a period of 60 to 70 years over a transportation corridor that is so vital to our future.” He said he remains committed to improving the corridor, but “there is a better way forward.”

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley also spoke this week on transportation funding for his state. He announced plans to borrow up to $2 billion for road and bridge repairs, if voters approve.

In November 2010, voters rejected a plan to reroute about $1 billion from the Alabama Trust Fund to pay off bonds for road and bridge improvements. The state savings account contains money from natural gas wells drilled in state-owned waters along the coastline.

Bentley also told assembled media in Birmingham that the state Department of Transportation is pursuing plans to build toll roads in south Alabama. He said there are no plans to pursue charging users to use existing roads.

State lawmakers can work on specifics of the governor’s plan, and any other transportation bills, during the session that begins Feb. 7.

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