Who Pays for Georgia’s Roads

One of the most frequently discussed points in last Tuesday’s Joint Study Committee on
Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding was how Georgia pays for transportation. As GDOT Commissioner Golden explained, Georgia relies on the feds for the majority of its transportation funds.

Keith_Golden_Presentation_080514 Fed Fund

As GDOT’s FY2015 Strategic Plan illustrates, this heavy reliance on federal funding is a consistent, long term trend.

GDOT Fed State Revenue

Looking forward, the Strategic Plan reasons that “federal funds are expected to be stable for the next two years but the long-term outlook continues to be uncertain as the current level of transportation spending cannot be sustained by the Federal highway trust fund as currently configured.” In other words, given Congress’ inability to find a long term solution for transportation funding, continued heavily reliance on the feds for the majority of our transportation funding is a dangerous game.

GDOT’s Joint Study Committee presentation also observed that Georgia relies on debt funding to a greater degree than our neighboring states.

Keith_Golden_Presentation_080514 Debt

Like relying on federal funding, using debt to pay for transportation projects is risky and doubly so when the debt is backed by  . . . .  federal transportation funds (as in the case of GARVEE bonds).  Yet Georgia continues to issue GARVEE bonds for the Northwest Corridor toll lanes and other projects.

Our current approach to transportation funding is inadequate, both in the amount and the sources of money. Georgia needs to find an alternative approach that is not only sufficient to meet the State’s needs, but also has the flexibility to pay for the non-road projects that so many Georgians want.