The year ahead in Georgia transportation
By Guest Columnist RUSSELL MCMURRY, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation
Transportation infrastructure plays a pivotal role in driving Georgia’s economy, supporting community growth and maintaining Georgia’s position as the No. 1 state in the U.S. to do business. It also makes Georgia more attractive as a home to prospective new business operations like Amazon’s second headquarters, as well as those in the freight and logistics industry and our largest industry, agribusiness.
The Georgia Department of Transportation takes its responsibility for managing the nation’s 10th-largest transportation network very seriously, and we work diligently to ensure it meets the needs of all Georgians. GDOT focuses on innovation, safety, sustainability and mobility to provide well-maintained roads and bridges. But that is just the beginning.
The primary focus of Georgia’s historic Transportation Funding Act of 2015 is to ensure a state of good repair for our roadways and bridges. TFA gives GDOT sustainable funding to maintain and improve Georgia’s critical transportation infrastructure assets. Since TFA was enacted, the department has begun to address the backlog of needs like resurfacing, bridge replacement and repairs, safety and operational improvements. While often not exciting, these projects are absolutely critical.
In addition to keeping our infrastructure in a state of good repair, GDOT must focus on the future of mobility for Georgia to remain competitive, both now and in the years ahead.
This includes expansion of Georgia Express Lanes to create a connected system. Express Lanes rely on variable-price tolling to provide motorists a choice for improved mobility and more reliable travel times. One of the greatest benefits of the Express Lanes network is for existing transit and potential future bus rapid transit. These corridors provide transit users a timely and consistent trip all for one fare.
An expanded Express Lanes network will build on the initial success of the reversible I-75 South Metro Express Lanes in Henry and Clayton counties that opened a year ago. The State Road and Tollway Authority saw nearly 1 million trips in the first six months of operation and usage continues to surpass projections.
Georgia’s second reversible Express Lanes project, the Northwest Corridor Express Lanes in Cobb and Cherokee counties, is scheduled to open this summer. Having 30 miles of reversible Express Lanes will be a game changer for mobility along I-75 and I-575. Both of these projects are designed to benefit not only Express Lane users, but also drivers in the general purpose lanes.
Advancing Express Lanes along I-285 and Ga. 400, as well as other capacity improvements, will be achieved in the future through public-private partnerships utilizing availability payments. This financing method is similar to obtaining a mortgage for a house: The department ensures payments for these major projects are in line with GDOT’s financial plan.
Freight mobility is critical for business. One of our first freight mobility projects is the widening of I-85 in Barrow, Gwinnett and Jackson counties, which begins with early construction activities in 2018. Thanks to an innovative best-value, variable-scope design build procurement, the department encouraged competition to deliver the most lane miles of widening within an allowable maximum budget, and the project gained an additional four miles of capacity beyond its original design. In 2019, construction is expected to start on two other major freight mobility projects: The widening of I-16 and the reconstruction of the I-16/I-95 interchange near Savannah.
Our goal is to provide a balance of maintenance projects while simultaneously advancing projects that move the needle on mobility.
GDOT is also working to create and nurture connections with people around the state. The department is more transparent than ever before and holds itself accountable for the work it does for the people of Georgia.
Social media has been particularly effective in times of crisis this past year – like safety videos released during Hurricane Irma; and telling important stories – like detour information during the I-85 rebuild. The department has seen exponential growth on Facebook and Twitter, where we not only quickly share crucial information, but also create two-way communication with our customers.
The department has also updated its website with improved navigation and the ability to search for projects by location or type. Visit www.dot.ga.gov to see the changes.
The start of a new year is a good time for a reminder about safe driving. While fatalities on Georgia’s roads in 2017 decreased from 2016, Georgia still saw a tragic 1,493 fatalities – about four deaths a day. Many of these are preventable. Don’t forget – wear your seatbelt, stay off the phone while driving and always drive alert.
The year 2018 is full of great promise for Georgia. We at the Georgia Department of Transportation pledge to continue working hard to improve the lives of all Georgians. Please remember to pardon our progress!
So lets see…nothing but highway widening and expansion. good to see GDOT still working from the 1960s transportation playbook. It’s worked so well for metro Atlanta traffic so far, why try something new? /sReport
I am currently a student at UGA taking a class on regional transportation. As a planning major, I am always wanting to hear from ALL stakeholders. Can you elaborate more on your feedback?Report
So, as the Georgia Dept. of _Transportation_, you’d think they’d have a comprehensive approach to improving transportation for the metro Atl area, and you’d think they’d be up to date on the global state-of-the-art of metro & regional transportation – since they are professionals after all. Instead their priorities are all road and highway focused. Widening and expanding highways is expensive, inefficient, and only produces more regional traffic and car dependence. The past 50 years of development in Atl have shown this to be true so it’s mind boggling that they continue to make the same mistakes (until you start to consider who’s holding the checkbook). Smart development would involve prioritizing transit, both urban and regional. An astute observer would have come to this conclusion at least 20 years ago and shifted priorities away from road/highway expansion.Report
I’m glad that as a planning student you are looking to learn more about regional transportation. I hope you’ll continue to inquire and become at least a little bit outraged about how horribly GA leadership has mismanaged transportation investment for decades. For starters – maybe look into why the state of GA doesn’t fund regional transit in it’s main economic center (many states do).Report
Christopher – I am an ex-railroader (25 years at Amtrak) and advocate and am active on rail safety issues. I also have deep interests in other modalities, as I have family involved in air transportation, and enjoyed extensive travel via the nations’ rail network both while employed and just making trips to see the country and how the rest of the nation works and plays. I put hundreds of thousands if not a few millions of miles on my employee pass while at Amtrak! I often utilize the second largest combined transit system in our state, Athens transit and the UGA bus system. I comment somewhat often on rail transit issues here on Saporta Report, and consider myself a stakeholder. My perspective on regional transportation issues is probably somewhat unique, and I feel, more circumspect, based on my experience(s). I am curious if your class is one offered via the University’s College of Environment and Design or by another department of College. Best of luck in your coursework!Report
The Atlanta region needs at least one multi-modal transportation hub, substantially more public transportation and regional airports.Report
Everything in this report is about roads and bridges. Zero about transit, freight rail, ports. It’s time to rename the department what it’s been all along: the Georgia Highway Department.Report
No, this is NOT the kind of infrastructure that “makes Georgia more attractive as a home to prospective new business operations like Amazon’s second headquarters”. Oh, Georgia. Hopefully, Brightline train service will extend up here.Report
What about our trains? At least our “brain train.” An innovative pol could suggest CSX swap continued lease of the taxpayers owned W & A right of way from near five points (aka the zero milepost) in downtown Atlanta, via Marietta and Dalton to downtown Chattanooga( yes State of Georgia property extends from the erstwhile GA/TN state line directly into downtown Chattanooga) via the W & A right of way! The swap with possible inducements might be executed for use/and maintenance of the CSX routes between Atlanta and Athens, and Atlanta and Augusta, for intercity passenger rail service. The W & A lease expires at the end of this year, and the State Properties Commission lawyers might have to do some extra work to see this through. Perhaps the varied political interests might debate the issue in upcoming electoral bamboozlement(s)? Mr. Bezos might like such a “Brain Train”. He reportedly likes brains, …. errrr trains.Report
Based on this column, the DOT seems stuck in the 1970s mindset, while other states are whizzing past us on transit. This is why we are unlikely to get the Amazon HQ2.
We in the city of Atlanta pay state taxes. We want OUR MONEY spent on things we want, which is primarily transit.
And yes, the “Brain Train” should already be up and running!Report