Ed Lindsey To Leave House; Serve On Transportation Funding Study Committee

July 2, 2014 15:33 pm

by Charlie · 41 comments

Representative Ed Lindsey was among those appointed today to the Joint Study Committee on  Critical Infrastructure Funding for Georgia.  Representative Lindsey is not running for re-election, and as was appointed by Speaker Ralston to serve in a “civilian” capacity.  As such, he is resigning his office effective today.  Representative Lindsey’s statement is included at the end of this post.

Others named to the committee are:

Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding (HR 1573)

Senator Steve Gooch, Co-Chair                      Representative Jay Roberts, Co-Chair

Senator Brandon Beach                                  Representative Jon Burns

Senator Tyler Harper                                       Representative Terry England

Senator Jack Hill                                             Representative Mark Hamilton

Senator David Lucas                                      Representative Calvin Smyre

Steve Green, Savannah                                   Edward Lindsey, Atlanta

Those listed in italics were included by statute. Senators and Steve Green were appointed by Lt. Governor Cagle. Representatives, including Lindsey, were appointed by Speaker Ralston.

Representative Lindsey didn’t resign his seat to run for Congress, but he is willing to leave early to serve on this committee. That, my friends, is what we usually consider significant. We’re quite used to Study Committees designed to paper over problems or kick the can. In my capacity of Executive Director of PolicyBEST I can say that the legislators I’ve spoken with, some who are named above, are ready to figure out solutions to Georgia’s transportation funding problems.

We currently spend just 60% of what an average state spends on transportation infrastructure and are dead last in spending per capita as of 2011 figures. The current gas tax, as a user fee, is a diminishing asset. Just since 2007 the average car on the road is getting 25% higher miles per gallon. That’s 25% less user fee paid for the “roads we’ve already paid for”. The result is Georgia is the most reliant of any state for transportation funding from the Federal Government, with the vast majority of our funding going to maintenance and debt service. In short, we’re not funding infrastructure critical for the growth that we expect over the next quarter century.

This committee is charged with evaluating where we are, where we need to be, and making some tough choices in helping choose a direction for how we get there. Ed Lindsey thinks it serious enough to leave his position early. I hope the voters that choose to engage in this process approach the reality of where we are and the potential solutions to get us where we need to be with equal seriousness.

Representative Lindsey’s statement:

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

It has been my honor and privilege to have represented Buckhead, Sandy Springs, and Brookhaven for the past ten years and to have served as the Georgia House Majority Whip for three terms. I thank you all for giving me this great opportunity.

Today, I agreed to step down six months early as a State Representative in order to accept an appointment by Speaker David Ralston to a Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Funding Infrastructure for Georgia. Let me tell you why.

Transportation has been a key to our region’s successful past and is a critical concern for our future. In the 19th Century, we were created as a railroad hub. In the 20th Century, we made our great leap forward due in large part to the Atlanta International Airport. As a result, we continue to be viewed as an international magnate for new business and growth.

However, metropolitan areas – even historically great ones like Metro Atlanta – are perpetually either in a period of growth and greater prosperity or steady decline.  There is no standing still.  We either attack our problems head on and make a better future for ourselves and our children today, or sit back and watch our past successes slip away into the history books.

Our transportation challenge in the 21st Century is to avoid drowning in the commuter quagmire created by our earlier success and emerge with solutions that will take us to even greater heights on the national and international stage.

I wish to emphasize that under Georgia law my resignation will not require a special election since we have completed the second regular session of the 2013-14 term and I am not standing for re-election this November.  I am pleased that I had the opportunity to complete my service to my constituents through this term’s regular sessions and it was important to me that my action today not triggers the cost of a special election.

My friend and colleague Representative Joe Wilkinson – who also represents part of Buckhead — has agreed that his office will take care of any constituent services residents in my district may need over the next few months until my successor is elected and sworn in. I hope that this arrangement will not inconvenience anyone in my community, but I believe I can best assist us at this time by serving on this important joint study committee.

As the work of this study committee gets under way, I will keep you posted on its progress and look forward to your input.

Take care and Happy 4th of July!

Sincerely,

Edward Lindsey

404-926-4108

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Three Jack July 2, 2014 at 3:58 pm

While I appreciate your optimism Charlie, there have been many committees and organizations formed for the purpose of solving transportation issues over the past 20 years. You or anyone else can visit websites for ARC, GRTA and DOT to find study after study put together by any number of committees. Where are the results? Why would you think this time will be any different?

I appreciate the effort, but am very skeptical that yet another committee filled with political appointees will somehow be more effective than the previous committees and supposed experts at the various regional and state organizations.

ARC – http://www.atlantaregional.com/transportation/overview
GRTA – http://www.grta.org/
SRTA – http://www.georgiatolls.com/
DOT – http://www.dot.ga.gov/Pages/default.aspx
HB277/TSPLOST (most recent failed effort by political appointees, called the “the ultimate democratic referendum on investing in transportation” by Perdue)

Charlie July 2, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Let’s start with something very basic, very critical, and very prominent in the title of this study committee: Funding

This isn’t about “the vision thing”. This isn’t about coming up with a project list that will sell politically. The DOT has a project list. The ARC has a project list. SRTA has a project list. What do they all lack? Funding.

We have plenty of planners and engineers, and we don’t need politicians coming up with solutions that are different from theirs, based on political rather than logistical objectives. (See, T-SPLOST).

What we need is some sense that we currently underspend on transportation based on any metric I have seen or can imagine. We also have more than half of our state’s population living in the fastest growing metro area in the country – a metro area bigger than half of the States in the US. Those two facts, added together, are unsustainable. Either we fund transportation infrastructure, or we quit growing. It sadly really is that simple.

So, as I understand it, the scope of this Committee isn’t to dream up politically acceptable project lists. It’s to figure out our funding formula that hasn’t changed in 3 decades – while all of Georgia has changed significantly.

The Last Democrat in Georgia July 2, 2014 at 5:42 pm

“Either we fund transportation infrastructure, or we quit growing. It sadly really is that simple.”

Without a functioning multimodal transportation network, we won’t have much of an economy over the long run.

taylor July 2, 2014 at 11:37 pm

I don’t see our General Assembly supporting an increase in government revenues – no matter how valid the reason (and an increase for transportation is valid). Politically, I don’t think it will happen.

Maybe they can get behind an increase in the use of toll roads. Even politicians that promise to not raise taxes have shown a willingness to support user fee increases.

Dave Bearse July 3, 2014 at 10:38 am

The GOP borrowed heavily to build economic development highways, rather than focusing on transportation dealing with the funding issue. Borrowing against federal funding is tapped out, turning off an economic development highway spigot that some want turned back on.

It remains to be seen how receptive people in the two districts that passed T-SPLOST will be to another transportation tax increase, err, increased funding. It appears based on Committee representation that the metro Atlanta Democratic views aren’t a consideration, which in light of T-SPLOST may be a mistake.

Here’s the most recent example a General Assembly transportation type report: http://saportareport.com/wp-content/uploads/2012-1-23-TGTF-Final-Report.pdf

Sure was a feather in Donna Sheldon’s cap!

Rambler14 July 3, 2014 at 1:45 pm

“The GOP borrowed heavily to build economic development highways”

Wasn’t the GRIP program (widening 2 lanes to 4 in the middle of nowhere Georgia in the name of economic development) a Zell Miller initiative?

Will Durant July 3, 2014 at 8:28 pm

Yeah it was. Zell spent millions, even tens of millions. Sonny spent billions.

Dave Bearse July 6, 2014 at 3:47 pm

GRIP was initiated in 1989, pre-Miller.

Sonny Perdue however massively accelerated transportation spending as FAST FORWARD (which included some GRIP projects) by heavy borrowing.

“We will accomplish in six years what would have otherwise taken 18,” Sonny Perdue. http://sonnyperdue.georgia.gov/00/press/detail/0,2668,78006749_92321069_92359324,00.html

40% of GDOT budget now goes to debt service. It’s a first GOP-Governor legacy to make you proud.

Three Jack July 3, 2014 at 10:39 am

I understand all that Charlie, but also note that TSPLOST was a funding mechanism first, then the plan for spending was announced. BOOM! DOA.

I have followed this issue for years and got deeply involved during the Northern Arc debate 17 years ago (Note it would have been completed around 2011 for approximately $2B that was going to come from bond issues to be paid by tolls before Perdueless and the uppity anti-arc crowd filed suit against the bond method). I have seen countless studies both with proposed funding and some as aspirational deals with no funding concepts. Thus my skepticism that all of a sudden this particular politically appointed committee will succeed where so many others failed. I hope I am wrong, but history is what it is when it comes to transportation.

Charlie July 3, 2014 at 10:45 am

Your first point illustrates why this has to be about funding, and funding only.

T-SPLOST was a funding plan, but it was sold as a project list – and frankly, a bad one.

We do have agencies that are credible that pick projects every day. GDOT’s leadership is now effective, responsive, and not politically tone deaf. They now make good ambassadors on this issue. It’s a lot easier to say “let’s fund this at the level it’s needed, but let’s keep the politicians out of choosing lists that don’t solve our problems. That’s what the traffic engineers at GDOT/SRTA/etc are for”.

Again, it’s going to be hard to push anything without comparison to T-SPLOST, but this process and end result needs to be fundamentally different. That will start by focusing on the root of the problem (insufficient funding) instead of shiny objects (random project lists) presented as a solution.

TheEiger July 3, 2014 at 11:18 am

This gives me hope that something may get done. The problem is keeping the folks under the gold dome away from making project lists that are polarizing. They need to do exactly what you said. Come up with a revenue stream and then get the hell out of the way and let GADOT and SRTA do what they do.

Dave Bearse July 6, 2014 at 3:50 pm

The problem is that developing funding requires trust, and the GOP has spent that last 40 years doing whatever it could to discourage trust.

The Last Democrat in Georgia July 2, 2014 at 5:44 pm

To see guys like Representative Lindsey and Senator Beach on the committee is a good thing because they are two guys who seem to stay engaged on the transportation issue.

Ghost of William F. Buckley July 2, 2014 at 8:54 pm

Finding funding falls on folks.

TSPLOST lost by a resounding “NO!” Bellwether Dunwoody says “NO!” to many things, including a big ol’ bond several years back.

I have popcorn at the ready to see how this esteemed group shall figure out funding, albeit critical, without relying on folk to pay for it. Good luck with that.

Most of the transportation issue in Atlanta could be alleviated by creating a truck bypass away from the city, away from I285. Not a Outer Perimeter either.

There was talk of US 27, a North/South bypass that got lost sometime back. Local interests trumped helping Atlanta; hard not to ‘get that.’

Good luck gentlemen and thank you for your service.

ryanhawk July 3, 2014 at 8:37 am

A good first step would be to stop diverting gas taxes to other uses. Plug the hole in the bucket before we start pouring more in.

Rambler14 July 3, 2014 at 1:48 pm

I am assuming that any plan to restore the 4th penny to GDOT will have to include where the resources are going to come to cover that same deficit from the general fund.

ryanhawk July 3, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Indeed, and that would be a grown up conversation.

Charlie July 3, 2014 at 3:43 pm

The 4th Penny is worth about $200M/year from the general fund and into transportation. GA’s budget revenues have been growing at about $500M per year (off top of my head memory, not stopping to look it up to verify) since we hit the bottom of the great recession.

We need to fund the basics before we allow the state to return to doling out billion dollar supplemental budgets as has been past practice. Shifting the 4th penny is a start, and is something we can do out of existing revenue.

TheEiger July 3, 2014 at 8:45 am

Here we are talking about funding for transportation and the Governor and the general assembly are almost finished tearing down what was a dedicated revenue stream for the 400 corridor. Not sure I understand the move to take down the toll. They could have kept it up for another 5-10 year period and paid for the 285/400 interchange and added additional HOV lanes on 400 without a single federal dollar. But instead of doing the smart thing they tore down the 400 tolls and now complain that the tax payers didn’t pass TSPLOST so now we can’t have new infrastructure. This is what you call a complete lack of leadership and no balls to do the right thing.

Chris Huttman July 3, 2014 at 9:16 am

Nobody tell CNBC.

John Konop July 3, 2014 at 9:37 am

I agree, and said it at the time….Makes no sense to end revenue streams when we are behind already…… With that said….Brandon Beach knows transportation issues….and is a very rational and pragmatic voice to be on the committee. We need less fire breathing to the base….and more pragmatic solutions…

One more thing…I would suggest getting Charlie Harper involved somehow….once again pragmatic….he does not spew for headlines….

Three Jack July 3, 2014 at 10:41 am

Agreed John. Charlie and others with knowledge of the issue would have a better chance of success than yet another politically charged committee.

Charlie July 3, 2014 at 9:41 am

Let’s not also try to pretend there’s not a political component to all of this. One of the major reasons T-SPLOST lost was “lack of trust”. While extending the tolls was a logical thing, it was directly opposite of promises made when the tolls were enacted.

SRTA and others are working hard to deliver the message on new toll roads that the toll isn’t about paying for construction (and thus to end when bonds are paid for), but that tolls are paid to “guarantee trip time”. Both are part of setting clear expectations, with government trying to do what it says it will do, while also keeping past promises, even if they aren’t necessarily “what’s best” for today.

TheEiger July 3, 2014 at 9:52 am

Do you think that if the state had been more transparent with the 400 toll and where the dollars where going it would still be up? The reason there is a lack of trust is because people can’t see what their money is going to. I promise you that if you told the folks that drove from North Fulton through the toll plaza everyday that the toll would stay up so that the intersection of 285/400 could be fixed they would have been okay paying their 50 cents. People tell us that North Fulton residents wanted it to come down. Well, as a North Fulton resident my wife and I drive through the ruins of the toll plaza daily. We would have preferred the Governor tell us that he was going to use all future revenue from the toll to improve the entire 400 corridor. Now we are proceeding with improving the 285/400 interchange with state and federal dollars that we could be using in other places. Like 285/75.

Charlie July 3, 2014 at 10:06 am

The problem is (was) that people all over the state were using the toll booths as an example of how the state doesn’t keep it’s promises. So while you may have been able to convince the people actually paying the toll that it was worth it, the same folks who hate MARTA but don’t live in MARTA counties and wouldn’t be riding or paying for MARTA were also complaining about a toll they don’t pay as part of the argument to do nothing.

The fact of the matter is we are where we are. We’re not where we should be. We also can’t re-fight the battles of the past. This one isn’t going to be easy. I still believe if we can stay focused on the metrics of where we are, and where we should be, we can get this done.

TheEiger July 3, 2014 at 10:26 am

Fair enough.

Chris Huttman July 3, 2014 at 10:10 am

More than trust, I think if the T-SPLOST had been on the general election ballot and the project list had appealed to the 60%+ voters in the 10 county region that consistently vote for Democratic candidates it might have had a shot at winning.

Instead, it lacked vision, was too road heavy, and was dominated by Republican mayors of places like Roswell. The 60% of voters who already have virtually no voice in state government (because the party they vote for doesn’t control it) were asked to turn over more of the money to more people they collectively don’t elect for more projects they don’t want.

And then couple that failure of conception with the fact that more than half of the 40% minority (Republicans) in the 10 county region start out against any larger role for government and it’s pretty easy to see how this thing failed so spectacularly.

Ga-400 toll might be a contributing factor to the crushing loss but the entire enterprise was doomed from the start.

TheEiger July 3, 2014 at 10:29 am

I live in Roswell. I promise you that if you took the road projects off of the TSPLOST list and replaced it with extending MARTA up 400 to Windward it would have failed miserably as well. Even if it was on the general election ballot.

Chris Huttman July 3, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Amazingly every county that’s voted recently on non-binding MARTA has voted at least 20 points ahead of what T-SPLOST got. In Clayton non-binding MARTA passed with over 70% less than 2 years before the T-SPLOST stalled out at 46%.

But your comment kind of proves my point: Roswell Republicans are against it whether it includes MARTA or not. It’s hard to imagine the T-SPLOST doing worse than it did in some of these counties (21% Cherokee, 24% Fayette, 29% Henry).

Meanwhile, if Clayton/Fulton/DeKalb had been supporting it at 70% (instead of 46/49/49) and Cobb/Gwinnett had bumped to 40% (instead of 31/29) it would have passed.

TheEiger July 3, 2014 at 12:27 pm

It may have passed in Clayton, but it was for half a cent not the full penny and it was to extend bus service not rail.

Chris Huttman July 3, 2014 at 7:06 pm

All indications pointed to a near riot after the commission voted for half penny instead of full and that has already been vetoed by MARTA. The commissioners have one more chance to get it fully right (1 penny) this Saturday.

Dave Bearse July 3, 2014 at 10:12 am

“Let me tell you why.”

He may be taking the Steve Stancil route….good soldier loses a GOP elected office, uses standing in the party to move on to six figure employment with GRTA for which he wasn’t particularly qualified, then bounce around until its time to collect a state pension that includes legislative service. Voila!

Charlie July 3, 2014 at 10:16 am

While the healthy skepticism is earned, I don’t think that’s what the angle is here in this case. Ed doesn’t need it, and based on my post-campaign interactions with him, he’s still very engaged on issues that matter to him, such as transportation and school choice.

Chris Huttman July 3, 2014 at 10:21 am

The partisan fire breather role (see: redistricting, Obamacare) didn’t seem to suit him that well (and didn’t end up paying any dividends in his Congressional run) so he may be able to have a bigger impact focusing on policy and not having to play politics. Doesn’t strike me as a state gov lifer like Stancil.

Dave Bearse July 6, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Ed has done nothing to earn that skepticism. It’s just me iterating the now-standard view of state pols that the GOP pitched for 30 years.

pucillo.oscar July 3, 2014 at 11:18 am

“Most of the transportation issue in Atlanta could be alleviated by creating a truck bypass away from the city, away from I285. Not a Outer Perimeter either.”

Flaw #1: the idea that complex problems can be fixed by simple (and cheap) solutions is generally the biggest impediment to anything getting done.

Flaw #2: the idea that Atlanta is the only place with transportation issues. If anything, the transportation issues in Atlanta are caused by the fact that it is the only area of the state that is economically growing which causes everyone to want to relocate and do business there, and the state is forced to promote Atlanta for every big project because suggesting alternatives basically means conceding those projects to other states. Florida, Texas and North Carolina do not have this problem … even Tennessee has Memphis, Nashville and a growing Chattanooga. If Columbus, Macon, Albany, Augusta and Savannah are going to start adding to this state’s economy once again, it is going to need the transportation and skilled workers. The Augusta/Savannah region has real potential and assets (tourism, energy, universities, transportation) that the state should have leveraged long ago. Pretty much the same is true of Macon with Mercer and Warner-Robins AFB, but it has been allowed to wither on the vine to the point where its population has actually decreased from nearly 125,000 to certainly less than 90,000 today. Getting serious about linking Augusta, Savannah and Macon (along with communities in between that have assets like Warner Robins, Statesboro, Athens etc.) into some common economic development/transportation strategy should have been done 30 years ago.

Yes, it would take what is the ugly word for conservatives and parochial interests that dominate this state: rail. But it would also take some other things, like upgrading airports and the road network to make that region a major player in moving freight. For example, why is flying freight into Hartsfield and then using trains and trucks to ship it to Savannah seen as such a good idea? Why not just expand the Savannah airport?

TheEiger July 3, 2014 at 11:23 am

“Most of the transportation issue in Atlanta could be alleviated by creating a truck bypass away from the city, away from I285. Not a Outer Perimeter either.”

I was just about to post something on this point. Anyone that has ever sat in rush hour traffic in the morning heading downtown will tell you that there is one thing lacking in the traffic. That’s big trucks. It’s easy to blame them for the traffic problem and they do play a part, but if we did away with every truck on the road in Atlanta we would still have a problem.

TheEiger July 3, 2014 at 11:32 am

Semi trucks may not cause all of the traffic, but they certainly do more damage to our roads than normal traffic. Having away to get those trucks around Atlanta would be beneficial in dollars saved in road repairs.

Currently, the vast majority of freight coming through the port of Savannah is put onto trucks and shipped through or around Atlanta. I have always thought that the inland port idea was a wonderful idea. We could use existing rail (I know CSX owns it and there would have to be negotiations) to ship 90% of all freight to an inland port in Columbus and North of Atlanta to Dalton. The freight would then be put on trucks to head to it’s final destination and never touch Atlanta’s roads. I would imagine that the 14% unemployed people in Dalton would love the idea of all of Savannah’s freight coming through their town. But that just make too much sense.

Charlie July 3, 2014 at 11:46 am

We’re going to have to have a lot of education efforts on the importance of rail, but also to the current limitations. Commuter rail is almost an impossibility given our current network. And the network we have is already near capacity for freight.

One of the problems, as you note, is that most rail in this state is privately owned, and thus, investments in additional capacity will have to come from mostly from private sources that need a decent ROI before they will happen.

If the state/feds see rail as traffic relief, then we’re going to have to find a way to incentivize the railroads to increase their capacity. Most of the state is currently single tracked, and many of the railyards these trains must pass thru are logistical bottleneck nightmares. Upgrades to them tend to cause huge NIMBY problems too, just like road expansions.

As I (will likely) keep saying, this won’t be easy and there’s no silver bullet. But rail certainly needs to be part of the discussion.

Dave Bearse July 6, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Crudely one-quarter of Savannah port traffic moves by rail. (Not as low as one might first think given the volume of freight that goes to warehousing within 50 miles of Savannah.)

Rail simply isn’t very competitive for less than 300 mile (some would say 400 mile) trips, the issue being it takes well over a day from port to a 300 mile away destination by rail, but is less than one day by truck.

The 300 mile number allowing two hours to two pick up at the port, 5-6 hours travel, time at the delivery end, and time home. It takes a few hours to load the train, 8 hours travel time, a few hours unloading, then a few hours for the truck to pick up from the intermodal yard and deliver.

Rail has an advantage at 500 miles. There is only an additional 6 hours travel time (the rail front end pick and back end delivery times are the same), so about two days from port to destination, about the same as truck which will have to stop overnight, but rail fuel and labor costs are less expensive.

Will Durant July 3, 2014 at 8:43 pm

As we have seen often with the past 2 Governors with a super majority legislature in their same party there is too much power given to that office. They can effectively hire and fire state employees at any level and have way too much control over the budget and most appropriate for this conversation, rescind taxes for obvious pandering purposes. If they can pass the bill for insurance against any future Democrat Governor joining the ACA can they not pass a bill preventing Governors from killing the automatic inflation increases to the motor fuel tax already written as Law? I know it is just a baby step but I don’t see any giant leaps on the horizon.