The commission expects a 30% increase in freight movement in Georgia by 2045. But an e-commerce explosion brought on by the coronavirus pandemic may accelerate that timetable.
For instance, according to the commission’s latest report, nationwide online spending was up 77% in May from the same month the previous year. Not surprisingly, GDOT says that while highway traffic fell during the pandemic, truck traffic has increased.
Meanwhile, the logistics industry faces long-term challenges, including a lack of truck parking, major traffic bottlenecks and a shortage of truck drivers.
Funding for road and rail improvements also is a key issue. GDOT estimates such work will cost $135 billion to $153 billion over the next 30 years.
Among other things, the commission’s report recommends doubling the proportion of freight carried on rail statewide from 17% to 35%, keeping traffic on Georgia interstate highways moving at 45 mph or higher and otherwise addressing traffic congestion in urban areas.
The report recommends boosting funding by $1 billion to $1.5 billion to pay for road and rail work. It does not recommend a specific funding plan, but it offers lawmakers a variety of options.
It’s unclear whether lawmakers will raise taxes or fees this year to pay for those improvements.
Ralston told reporters it’s among his top priorities.
“It’s something we really, really need to do at some point sooner, rather than later,” Ralston said.