By Guest Columnist SETH MILLICAN, director of the Georgia Transportation Alliance
As we mark a year since the 2012 primary election, community and business leaders continue to assess the results of the Transportation Investment Act.
There is often a tone of chagrin in those conversations as people try to figure out why the referendum passed in only three of 12 regions and try to redefine a vision for Georgia’s transportation future.
While Georgia is fortunate that 54 counties chose to adopt the TIA and begin investing $2 billion in their local transportation infrastructure, the truth remains that as a “hub and spokes” state, Georgia’s economic success hinges largely upon the success of metro Atlanta. Of course it was disheartening for voters to reject the regional approach to transportation and infrastructure improvements.
Despite the mixed outcome, Georgians should be proud of those who worked tirelessly to pass the referendum. And we should not forget what was gained through that effort.
Georgia’s business community found itself tougher and wiser about our state’s needs. No single issue has more cohesively drawn together such a broad, diverse coalition of stakeholders in the pursuit of a long term goal.
As a result, we learned valuable lessons about building coalitions. We learned about how communities of interest can interact and agree on transportation issues. We learned valuable lessons about how voters view traffic, congestion, economic development and job creation, and we learned about what types of projects are seen as important and which ones are not.
Indeed, the TIA election of 2012 was not an exercise in futility. And as we look forward, a protracted discussion about who’s to “blame” for the results of the TIA is neither helpful nor wise.
We shouldn’t be quibbling over the past but rather encouraging thoughtful discussions about our future and how we can improve our transportation infrastructure so that we are more competitive as a state. Ultimately, we should be focused on the most important question of all: what’s next?
It’s time for Georgians to have a new conversation about transportation. That conversation will include our elected leaders, chambers of commerce and advocacy groups, and it should incorporate the lessons we’ve learned over the last several years.
That conversation must be unconstrained, and we must have it with big goals in mind. We must recognize and celebrate the excellent work currently being done by our state’s transportation agencies and leadership. And as we have this conversation, we should closely examine other states to see what has been successful in states similar to our own.
Securing additional transportation investment must be one of our top priorities. We must pursue that goal holistically and look for multiple creative pathways to success, including possible changes to our state’s governance and project delivery structures.
Ultimately, our transportation challenges have not changed. According to the Reason Foundation, we are 35th in the United States for traffic congestion and we still face a population increase of several million in the next 17 years. The motor fuel tax remains a regressive, shrinking source of revenue. And our ability to rely on the federal government continues to decrease by the year.
At the Georgia Transportation Alliance, we look forward to facilitating a new conversation with Georgians about their transportation needs.
We look forward to drawing attention to the successes being achieved in Georgia and to working with community leaders and policy makers in both metro Atlanta and all across the state to develop wise, forward thinking investment strategies so that Georgia’s transportation infrastructure becomes a fundamental asset to our economic competitiveness as a state for decades to come.
The Georgia Transportation Alliance is an affiliate of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. More information, please visit the Alliance’s webpage.