On Wednesday, Russell McMurray, Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) Commissioner and Chris Tomlinson, Executive Director for the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA), the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) and the Atlanta-region Transit Link Authority (the ATL) addressed Gwinnett Chamber members. Their remarks could not have come at a more opportune time as the U.S. House of Representatives had just passed the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA) last Friday. The bill will go to President Biden’s desk. The U.S. Senate passed the bill earlier this year on a 69-30 vote.
Nearly half of the $1.2 trillion bill is dedicated to federal highway, bridge, and public transportation improvements. Georgia will significantly benefit from the IIJA, according to Commissioner McMurray, with a 21% increase in state formula funds for highway, bridge, and transit programs ($8.9 billion over 5 years). This includes two innovative programs: Bridge Replacement and Electric Vehicle Charging. Other dedicated dollars to Georgia include $91 billion for transit (30% increase), $66 billion for passenger rail, and $83 billion for discretionary programs that local governments and organizations can apply to receive. Commissioner McMurray noted that all federal dollars require an 80/20 match with state and local funds. The remaining funds will be allocated towards other physical infrastructure like grid resiliency, broadband expansion, water infrastructure, and environmental remediation.
Commissioner McMurray also highlighted the ongoing GDOT study on the 18 mile I-85 corridor through Gwinnett, a partnership with Gwinnett County to identify solutions that reduce congestion, enhance traffic operations, and improve safety.
Chris Tomlinson provided an update on the regional and local efforts to improve transit and mobility, much of which impacts Gwinnett. Transit investments like strategic Xpress expansions along multimodal corridors ($8.5 million Park-and-Ride in Sugarloaf Mills) and a $5.4 federal grant award for ten new battery electric commuter coach buses continue to better position Gwinnett and Metro Atlanta to be leaders in transportation initiatives. Through the ATL, Chris highlighted the 5 Gwinnett transportation projects on the ATL board’s priority investment list, all of which the chamber supports, projects from micro transit zones to transit center improvements.
Chris did note that while Georgia receives appropriate Federal Highway Administration formula funding (eighth in the country), the state lags in recipients of discretionary funding (35th in the country). With ample federal funds available, Chris is hopeful that strong partnerships among the state, county, and local stakeholders will help Georgia and Gwinnett capitalize on resources to build a robust infrastructure that creates jobs, improves mobility, and strengthens the economy.
Transportation remains a top priority in the chamber’s public policy agenda. The passage of the IIJA is a win for Gwinnett as it will bring dedicated funding to improve our transit operations and freight networks. Having a strong infrastructure system that connects people to jobs and services, businesses to talent, and communities to each other is a key component to Gwinnett’s economic growth. Improving our interstate congestion, highway safety, and freight bottlenecks are vital to attracting businesses to Georgia.
Numerous state and local transportation leaders attended, including Rudy Bowen, Georgia Department of Transportation Board Member serving Georgia’s Seventh Congressional District.
To view the chamber’s 2021 Public Policy Agenda, visit https://gwinnettchamber.org/publicpolicyagenda. To learn more about public policy at the Gwinnett Chamber, visit https://gwinnettchamber.org/publicpolicy.