Overlooked in the Transportation Investment Act’s rush to riches is the 2010 Statewide Freight & Logistics Plan (SFLP) concluding, “An investment of $15 billion over the next 20 years is needed across a wide range of freight-related projects to maximize the economic development potential of Georgia’s freight and logistics industries. Over the last 20 years, this investment has decreased, and this has in part been a contributor to the economic stagnation of Georgia relative to the rest of the U.S. since 2000.”
Excuse me, but didn’t the GDOT use a similar economic stagnation line to justify its need for more concrete and asphalt? The taxpayer ante would not end with the TIA, read on.
The SFLP goes on to observe, “Funding the Freight & Logistics Action Plan will be a challenge. The recently enacted Transportation Investment Act of 2010…includes a portion of the recommended freight improvement projects identified in the Freight & Logistics Action Plan. However, the vast majority of recommended freight improvement projects will require alternative funding sources.”
In an April 2010 The Telegraph article, former Macon City Councilman Mike Cranford said, “The city of Macon may one day become an ‘inland port’ for the city of Savannah, which is running out of room to store its excess cargo and containers. The designation could trigger millions in federal money and could create up to 2,500 new jobs. He said he’s even conferred with Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart to include the county in the effort.”
Indeed, Hart agreed stating in a March 2011 Georgia Trend magazine that, “Norfolk Southern has Brosnan Yard in the area, which happens to be their biggest switchyard in the Southeast. So if we did an inland port (where cargo could transfer from rail to truck), we could ship cargo from there that wouldn’t have to come through Atlanta.”
Even with 2,500 jobs on the line, enthusiasm for the idea quickly disappeared. The inland port proposal didn’t even rate a study in the area’s Long Range Transportation Plan. And the T-SPLOST lacks projects of this nature while the SLFP places top priority on “Expansion of intermodal and carload terminals.”
Unlike highways, the SFLP observes, “Freight rail is funded and operated by the private sector, but the efficiency of its operation has a tremendous impact on the competitiveness of shippers in Georgia. Improvements in the State’s rail track and rail terminals are needed over the long haul to continue to move goods effectively using the rail mode.”
Which makes more sense, private sector funding or taxpayer funding? If you selected the latter, the GDOT has a job offer waiting for you. The goal is to perpetuate the department, not make sense.
The tax demands of the SFLP and the TIA cannot peacefully coexist. The TIA is a transportation program in name only. Short shrift is given to freight and logistics giving major emphasis to highways.
The TIA mandates that up to 80 percent of sales tax revenue can be allocated to, you guessed it—roads and bridges. Adding gas to the fire, proceeds from the state’s motor fuel taxes already are constitutionally earmarked to support projects on Georgia’s roads and bridges. The TIA’s maximum allowance for “Freight and Logistics; Aviation” projects is a mere 20 percent of total revenue.
Also, similar to the Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan, the TIA makes federal funding assumptions that may not come true. The federal highway trust fund, according to the GAO, will face bankruptcy in 2014. Twenty-three projects in Middle Georgia will need about a half billion dollars in “other source” funding.
The Middle Georgia region’s politicos, and probably many others across the state, are betting the region’s farm that roads, and only roads, will bring prosperity. Where does, and how will, the freight and logistics piece fit into the transportation investment puzzle, as it must?
The starting point is disapproval of the T-SPLOST forcing the General Assembly to rise from their collective buttocks pontificating for workable “transportation” investment and economic development programs. The economic development program would implement all the Georgia Competitive Initiative report goals concerning business climate, education and workforce, innovation, infrastructure, global commerce and government efficiency and effectiveness.