The federal government is on a once-in-a-generation infrastructure spending binge, and metro Atlanta officials want their share.
Several hundred government and business leaders attended a conference Tuesday at Georgia Tech, hoping to learn how they can get a share of $1.2 trillion in infrastructure spending that Congress approved last year in a bipartisan vote. Billions of dollars will be coming to Georgia for road and bridge projects, public transportation, ports, airports and other infrastructure.
The message delivered by federal officials at Tuesday’s conference was clear: Come and get it.
“We’ve got highways that are congested and greenhouse gas emissions that continue to grow,” Nuria Fernandez, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, told the conference Tuesday. “These are not new problems. What we have now are new opportunities to address them.”
Metro Atlanta already has gotten a taste of new infrastructure spending. Earlier this year the Atlanta Regional Commission allotted $45 million for a variety of projects, including new buses for MARTA, sidewalks and curb cuts for Cobb County, and planning money for road work in Barrow and Henry counties.
But that’s a fraction of what’s to come. Georgia will get $8.9 billion for highway construction and $1.4 billion for public transportation over five years. It will receive hundreds of millions more for work to include building electric vehicle charging stations, cleaning water and expanding broadband internet.
The state could get even more through competitive grant programs. One example: MARTA recently received $19.3 million for electric buses and related equipment.
“It’s difficult to overstate the significance of this legislation,” said Anna Roach, executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, which sponsored the conference. “Who knows if we’ll see another investment like this in our lifetimes.”
There’s no shortage of projects that could benefit. Fernandez cited MARTA’s plans for the Southlake bus rapid transit line in Clayton County, as well as its renovation of Five Points station.
Local officials are eager for the investment. Matthew Lee, executive director of the Tucker-Northlake Community Improvement District, believes metro Atlanta will be able to get its share of federal funding if the leaders speak with one voice.
“We’re moving away from operating in silos and becoming more unified,” Lee said.