Georgia Democrats in Congress say infrastructure money could boost public transit

AJC file photo. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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AJC file photo. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Democrats in Georgia’s congressional delegation are asking the state’s Department of Transportation to outline how it will use funding and new flexibilities outlined in the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure package to boost the state’s public transit system.

Georgia is set to receive nearly $1.4 billion over five years from the package for public transportation — including $923 million for metro Atlanta. Though the law attracted bipartisan support, every GOP member of Georgia’s congressional delegation opposed it.

State and local officials haven’t decided how to spend the money. They say they must wait for details and find money to match the federal funds. But there’s no shortage of highway and transit projects that need funding, including a MARTA expansion.

The new law also includes language that gives states more flexibility in how Federal Highway Administration funding can be used for bus and rail systems.

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff and U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson led all eight Georgia Democrats in Congress in sending a letter to state Transportation Board Chairwoman Emily Dunn on Wednesday requesting a five-year plan on how infrastructure dollars can be used to support public transit.

The letter also asked the board to repeal a GDOT policy prohibiting state gas tax revenue from being used for public transit, even if projects are related to the use of roadways such as bus rapid transit.

“Across our state, local jurisdictions and transit agencies are raising revenue to maintain, operate, and expand public transit,” the lawmakers wrote. “Without the necessary support from GDOT, our local communities face a disproportionate burden raising needed funds for public transit infrastructure.”

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