Deal and Reed to make major announcement of federal transportation dollars Tuesday

By Maria Saporta

At the Atlanta Region Summit of Georgia’s Competitiveness Initiative, Gov. Nathan Deal highlighted the unprecedented cooperation between the state and the City of Atlanta.

Specifically, both Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed spoke of their recent joint trip to Washington, D.C. to try to secure federal dollars and support to Georgia.

“I do believe you are going to see this week that we are going to be announcing the results of that trip to Washington,” Deal told the group of more than 200 metro leaders.

Reed did his own tease when he addressed the audience, thanking the governor for being willing to work together on that trip to Washington on June 1 when they met with a multitude of federal officials.

“We are going to see the fruits of that trip very shortly,” the mayor said.

After his talk, Reed was asked about “the announcement” by several members of the press.

The only thing Reed would say was: “I think we are going to have a very good announcement for the state in the morning.”

It appears that the announcement, to be held Tuesday at 11 a.m. at the capitol, will be about federal financing to add toll lanes along I-75 and I-575 — a project that could provide congestion relief for people traveling in Cobb and Cherokee counties.

The announcement is expected to be that the federal government will loan Georgia $270 million of the $1 billion project. The federally-subsidized loan reportedly would help decrease Georgia’s project costs by up to $100 million.

During their trip to D.C., Deal and Reed did lobby U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for a $375 million loan from the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. The announcement, however, is expected to be less than what Reed and Deal had requested.

The project would be a public-private partnership to build toll lanes where drivers would actually pay a premium to be able to drive on those lanes. The state is expected to have to invest as much as $350 million for the project to be built.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

5 replies
  1. Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Actually, this announcement was made so that Kasim Reed, Nathan Deal and other regional and, especially, state officials, could appear that they are doing something, anything, about congestion when the truth is that the state is having EXTREME trouble at the moment finding an investor to partner with on the project, especially when the tolls paid by commuters won’t even cover all of the cost of the project meaning that its chances of ever being profitable are slim-to-none at best.

    If the project was to actually ever be built and become operational, the potential is there for it to become a public relations nightmare as any potential private partner would want a contractual obligation from the state (at great cost to the public, of course) to restrict and reduce the improvements of any parallel routes which commuters might want to use, parallel routes that include roads, rails and buses. Georgia officials know this because it happened years ago when the state of California entered into a similar public-private partnership on toll roads which turned into a PR disaster when the roads were used much less than was projected, no profit was made, the state of CA was restricted by the contract from making improvements to parallel routes and ended up having to pay hundreds-of-millions of dollars more to the private investors to get out of the costly and misguided partnership on the toll roads.

    This purely political “announcement” was made to give frustrated gridlocked motorists the impression that at least something minimal is being done after eight years of almost complete inaction by the Perdue Administration. It is possible that the project could conceivably come to fruition, but I have my doubts, especially since it will have to be heavily subsidized by the public (considering tolls would only cover a fraction of the cost at best) and the state’s extreme difficulty in finding a private investor for an unprofitable project in a very shaky economy.

    One also needs to consider that Cobb and Cherokee Counties make up a key block of poltically-conservative suburban voters that one needs to win the governorship in primary and general elections. If Deal wants to win a second term and Reed wants to continue to ascend up the political ladder to eventually run for governor then appearing to do something big about a really big problem in an area of a large key constituency of politically-active voters is a must as one cannot hope to realistic win a governor’s race in a Republican primary or general election without the support of ultraconservative Cobb and Cherokee voters in a political landscape dominated by conservatives.

    Having the support of conservative voters in the heavily-populated I-75/575 corridor is an absolute must if one is to win a statewide GOP primary and general election and since Deal just barely escaped through the last GOP primary by the skin of his teeth and will likely face a very conservative challenger during his re-election campaign, appearing to be attentive to the needs and wants of this particular important block of voters makes political sense for both Deal and Reed so you can best believe that there is a method to the madness here.Report

  2. Peachy News says:

    Governor Deal and Mayor Reed – do you really want to take credit for this stupid idea? I am appalled to think that hundreds of millions of my state and federal tax dollars would be used to subsidize a private contractor to build a toll road that no one really wants and shouldn’t be built in the first place – Stop wasting our money, Governor – this isn’t a loan anybody’s paying back and you know it. If you just want to throw some state dollars around, how about a few million for a shuttle bus service, or extend MARTA a bit -as we should have done a long time ago – and let everybody in Georgia save a little time and a lot of gas money on their commute, and save the city from even more code orange air days too. Come on guys – get progressive. This shouldn’t be about steering some bloated government handouts to your friends in the road building business – This is about about the future of transportation in Georgia – Get wise to rail and public trans, gentlemen – it’s a lot smarter, greener, and cheaper too.Report

  3. Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    @Peachy News

    You hit the nail right on the head as this is all about steering public money to their friends, cronies and campaign contributors in the roadbuilding business.

    As for whether Deal and Reed really want to take credit for this idea, of course they do, especially considering the cluster of car-crazy ultraconservative voters that they’re aiming this proposal towards in Cobb and Cherokee Counties.

    This proposal is for the very large and crucial ultraconservative block of constituents in Cobb and Cherokee that love their cars and their roads and absolutely hate mass transit, a block of constituents that, as Gov. Deal learned in his GOP gubernatorial primary last year, is critical to winning statewide elections.

    With their very large combined block of very vocal and outspoken conservative right-leaning affluent suburban voters and large population, Cobb and Cherokee Counties are critical to winning the governor’s offices. You don’t win the I-75/575 Corridor, you don’t win the governor’s office, a fact that both Karen Handel and Governor Deal found out last year as Deal won Cobb County and the GOP Primary by the skin of his teeth.

    Deal wants a second term and Kasim Reed has designs on a higher office at the statewide level after finishing two terms as Mayor of Atlanta and both men know how absolutely critical this block of voters are to winning statewide elections so for them a seemingly dumb proposal like this is actually very smart politics for them seeing as though these much-needed voters hate transit and seeing as how roadbuilders still make the biggest political contributions in statewide elections, at least until the railbuilders get into the game and start putting forth bigger campaign donations.

    It’s all politics, my friend, plain and simple.Report


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