Transportation funding is about the future

W. Paul Bowers is CEO of Georgia Power Co. and chair of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Larry L. Gellerstedt III is CEO of Cousins Properties and chair of the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

Recent national rankings and corporate location decisions have shown the world what we have long known – that Georgia is a great place to live and do business.

Historically, our economic success has been inextricably connected to transportation. We’ve leveraged our location to grow our ports and expand our airport. We have built extensive highway and freight rail systems that connect communities and efficiently move freight. In our cities, we have focused on mobility, and throughout the state we made safety a priority in order to protect all who use our transportation system.

Today our economic backbone is in danger.

We have transportation plans that cannot be executed, maintenance that cannot be addressed, and congestion that impacts the movement of both people and goods as there is simply not enough transportation funding to meet our needs.

The time has come to take action and make meaningful investments in our transportation infrastructure.

Our organizations were honored to be a part of a legislative study committee charged with identifying potential solutions to this growing challenge. During statewide hearings, experts confirmed what we have long known. Our communities need greater mobility and connectivity, reliance on federal funding is not a viable option, and we lag the nation in spending on construction and maintenance.

The testimony described a bleak future, one that makes it harder to get to work or school, hurts our ability to move freight from our ports or airport, and threatens the safety of our citizens.

Georgia’s existing funding structure is insufficient, and it is unreliable. We depend too heavily on dwindling federal resources. We rely on a state sales tax that is impacted by changes in the cost of fuel and continues to decline as efficiency improves. Projections estimate that Georgia needs a minimum of $1 billion annually just to keep up with current maintenance needs. That number grows to over $2 billion if we want to invest in new projects.

Georgia no longer has the luxury of waiting to act, especially if we want to continue to attract new jobs and investment.

We have been encouraged by the posture of Georgia’s elected leaders. Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Speaker David Ralston have all said unequivocally that these needs must be addressed. That sentiment has been echoed by many members of the General Assembly, who will have the opportunity to vote on this issue in the days ahead.

This challenge is not a simple one to solve. The decisions that need to be made are not easy – but bold decisions never are.

Choosing the right road forward does not always mean the one with least resistance and those who make that choice deserve our appreciation and support.

The passage of transportation funding legislation this year is critical for the future success of our communities, our companies and our economy – and it will send a clear signal that Georgia will remain a great place to live and do business long into the future.