Obama budget stiffs Savannah harbor, funds programs used for Atlanta Streetcar, BeltLine

By David Pendered

Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday was quick to jump on President Obama’s budget proposal for not including money to start the Savannah harbor deepening project.

President Obama's proposed 2015 budget funds a grant program Atlanta is using to develop a BeltLine trail near this one, in southwest Atlnata. File/Credit: David Pendered

President Obama’s proposed 2015 budget funds a grant program Atlanta is using to develop a BeltLine trail near this one, in southwest Atlnata. File/Credit: David Pendered

But the Obama proposal does contain money for other transportation projects that may be of help in Georgia, particularly in Atlanta. Deal said the state will begin deepening the harbor with funds it already has set aside for the job.

For starters, the president has recommended a four-year transportation program that includes continued funding of the TIGER program. Atlanta has won more than $65 million in TIGER grants to fund construction of the Atlanta Streetcar and a segment of the Atlanta BeltLine.

The Obama budget proposal seeks $1.25 billion a year in TIGER grants for each of the next four years, according to washingtonpost.com. If Atlanta intends to apply for another round of TIGER grant funding, the plans have not yet been widely disseminated.

Regarding transit funding, the Obama proposal would almost double funding for transit systems and intercity passenger rail, from $12.3 billion to $22.3 billion, according to washingtonpost.com.

A story in bostonglobe.com reports that most of the transit funding would be in the form of grants to improve existing intercity rail service and provide new intercity passenger service. The story notes that Obama hopes to boost train service among cities that are less than 500 miles apart, partly in order to ease air traffic congestion. The effort has been largely unsuccessful since Republicans gained control of the House in the 2010 election.

Brosnan Yard, Macon

Although Macon’s Brosnan Yard is highly accessible, a recent GDOT report calls for upgrades to the state’s rail system that could be eligible for funding from a program included in President Obama’s proposed FY 2015 budget. Credit: maconworks.com

The American Public Transportation Association usually is quick to comment on federal funding proposals. APTA had not released a statement late Tuesday on the president’s budget proposal. However, in the past, APTA has been generally supportive of the president’s proposals regarding transit maintenance and intercity passenger rail service.

Finally, the president’s proposal would create a four-year program to address freight transportation bottlenecks.

The $10 billion plan would address a freight issue raised in Georgia by the state Department of Transportation, which accepted a consultant’s report that outlines billions of dollars of needed rail upgrades throughout the state.

On the national level, even the CEO of the Panama Canal Authority said in a 2012 speech in Atlanta that deepening U.S. ports so they can accommodate the mega-tankers that will be using the enlarged Panama Canal will be of limited use if the U.S. doesn’t expand its freight-handling capacity.

Back to the Savannah harbor deepening project, Deal didn’t waste a minute to say the state would move ahead with the project.

The governor did not mention woes facing the canal construction. They include a work stoppage because of cost overruns that are the subject of international arbitration. Work resumed just last week, though on a limited basis, after a two-week stoppage.

This is the full statement released by Deal’s office:

  • The Panama Canal is about 3,500 miles south of Savannah. File/Credit: mapquest.com

    The Panama Canal is about 3,500 miles south of Savannah. File/Credit: mapquest.com

    “Responding to news that President Obama failed to provide construction money for the Savannah Harbor deepening project in his budget recommendation, Gov. Nathan Deal said today he’s prepared for the state to move forward on its own. Deal said Georgia would use the money it’s put aside over a number of years to begin work so that the project doesn’t fall further behind schedule.

  • “’Vice President Biden promised in the past year that we’d get this project done come ‘hell or high water,’ but it’s more accurate to say the administration is going to put us through the former to get to the latter,” Deal said. “Earlier this year, President Obama signed into law — a law this budget recommendation ignores — a provision that allows Georgia to use the $266 million it has set aside to get the work started. That’s exactly what I intend to do. The state of Georgia and its congressional delegation have worked diligently and patiently to see this project through to fruition. We’ve dotted every ‘I’ and crossed every ‘T,’ we’ve received every federal permit required and we’ve already waited too long. Under the federal law recently passed, we will begin dredging using state funds until the federal government lives up to its obligations in this partnership. The Obama administration has noted repeatedly the importance of projects such as this for economic development and job creation, and the state of Georgia, as always, stands ready to do its part.’”

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

4 replies
  1. writes_of_weigh says:

    It IS quite clear to most, that the private rail systems which stand to garner profits in the hundreds of millions of dollars from the transport to/from the deepened river port(s) in Savannah(Jasper Cty. S.C.)of TEU’s(shipping containers), sould be quite capable of raising necessary funding for requisite  route expansion/modernization needs. To suggest that the industry might need ANY public funding sans an simultaneous outlay/investment to facilitate public, steel wheel on steel rail(read commuter/inter-city) transit, is not recognizing the current political/funding realities extant in Washington. To waste taxpayer dollars on another “study” by a firm which has an extensive history of studying transit proposals “to death”, resulting in hardly any real world track construction/train operation heralds that the time for real action has passed, As neighboring states “eat our lunch” on new transportation options, this long overdue implimentation of transit expansion, simply, must occur.Report

  2. writes_of_weigh says:

    A portion of the President’s proposed budget is dedicated to “fixing” the nations intercity passenger rail scarcity – see (www://bit.ly/1eM9kfD). This might be more logical, given recent headlines re the Malay aero conundrum, and the increasing unease of the traveling public to consider flight as a solution to domestic transportation needs. Unfortunately, as Amtrak remains the only nationwide mandated provider of interstate passenger rail, and has employed in it’s prior ranks the likes of Kevin J. O’Conner, late of New Jersey transit transportation debacles, one wonders if this budget move of supporting a monopoly of interstate, intercity passenger rail by Amtrak, is the “best direction” for very scarce federal funds?Report


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