Todd Long to Steve Brown: Simmer down about the match penalty; plus other T-SPLOST tidbits

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Members of the Georgia Institute of Transportation Engineers convened today at the East Roswell Recreation Center to hear a T-SPLOST debriefing from two senior GDOT officials, deputy commissioner Todd Long and engineering director Russell McMurry. The group of engineers from private firms and local governments across metro Atlanta meets monthly, usually at Mary Mac’s, and demonstrates that regionalism is alive in at least one arena.

Fresh off this morning’s house confirmation hearing for Toby Carr as GDOT planning director (a post formerly held by Long), the speakers did not dwell on the transportation referendum’s failure except to say that the margins surprised even them. But they did share a few interesting nuggets:

-Despite the fuss made by Fayette commissioner Steve Brown, the match penalty for regions in which the T-SPLOST failed (local governments must now provide a 30 percent match for state grants, as opposed to 10 percent had the tax passed) does not impact the ten counties of metro Atlanta. According to Long, all ten counties already are matching way more than 30 percent of what’s available to them in the state’s Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant program. “That’s not true when you get out to the rural areas, but in the metro Atlanta area that’s true . . . You guys as professionals need to help your elected leaders and your bosses understand that.”

-Don’t look for many “pure toll roads” in Georgia’s future, but get ready for their cousin, managed lanes. I-75 in Henry County, Cobb’s Northwest Corridor, and I-85 north of Lawrenceville will see the addition of managed lanes (or express toll lanes) in the near future. Count on the new interchange at GA-400 and 285 incorporating toll lanes as well.

-Speaking of tolls, Long suggested that the GA-400 toll, slated to come down at the end of 2013, is not just a revenue driver but a de facto traffic reducer. “It will be interesting to see if there’s a huge influx of people taking 400 on down to I-85,” he said.

-McMurry reminded everyone that the T-SPLOST did not totally crash and burn and that the three regions that approved the sales tax are in for a smooth ride. “You won’t ride around anywhere [in the Heart of Georgia region] without being on a resurfaced road in ten years.”

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