DOT official holds power in transit referendum

Todd Long’s position was created to shift authority from transportation board to governor

As the state hands over a $23 billion project list for the regional roundtable to sort through, it’s evidence of Todd Long’s power as metro Atlanta and 11 other regions in Georgia head toward a 2012 referendum.

Long, the state’s director of planning for transportation, is an unelected bureaucrat who reports to the governor, but the law that created his post gave Long the power to pare down (or beef up) the wish list of projects submitted by local governments — within guidelines set by regional officials. He has handled this for all 12 regions of the state.

Long’s position was created as a way to shift power from the state Transportation Board to the governor. Then-Gov. Sonny Perdue appointed Long as the first person to the post, and Gov. Nathan Deal kept him on.

The son, brother, nephew and husband of engineers, Long got bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Georgia Tech. For his master’s thesis, he wrote about attempts to stifle cut-through traffic in Roswell neighborhoods.

He went right to work at the Georgia Department of Transportation, and rose through the ranks. There, he oversaw projects including road signs for park-and-ride lots for the 1996 Olympic Games.

Now, Long, 44, supervises a staff of three dozen people at the state DOT. He knows what it’s like to be a commuter, too: He takes I-85 to get from home in Lilburn to work in Midtown.