By Jason A. Smith
Gov. Sonny Perdue has announced plans to visit several areas of the state next week to discuss an issue of growing concern among Georgia residents.
The governor will reportedly embark on a seven-city "listening tour," to address transportation concerns. The project is a joint venture with the Investing in Tomorrow's Transportation Today (IT3) initiative.
Stops on the tour will include Macon, Savannah, Dalton, Atlanta, Valdosta, Columbus and Augusta.
In a written statement, Perdue said his goal is to learn what residents seek regarding future transportation efforts, and how they should be financed. "It is my hope that through IT3, we will transform the way Georgia deals with our transportation challenges," said Perdue. "This listening tour will allow Georgians to give us their input and ideas as we crystallize the goals and priorities that will ultimately become the final IT3 proposal."
The tour will be conducted by Georgia Transportation Commissioner Gena Evans, and Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) Executive Director Dick Anderson. Members of the State Transportation Board, as well as state and local legislators are also expected to take part in the event.
Kay Pippin, president of the Henry County Chamber of Commerce, applauded the governor's "timely" desire to meet with the public. She said demands of a growing population in the state, combined with increased congestion on Georgia roads, demand action be taken by elected officials.
"I think we all know that we have to have a new source of revenue to fund transportation infrastructure," she said. "Hopefully, the hearings will enable the governor to learn what Georgians need to do to address congestion."
Pippin said gridlock on interstates and current gas prices in the state, demand that the governor take certain measures to help residents. Those measures, she said, include expanding GRTA bus availability, adding more park-and-ride services along Interstate 75 and authorizing the construction of a commuter rail line.
Andy Welch is the chairman of the Henry Chamber's Transportation Committee. He said he supports Perdue's effort to reach out to communities in Georgia. "I think it's a great idea that the governor and state officials are conducting these town hall meetings," he continued. "I think the central question is how governments would recommend funding to maintain infrastructure to construct new transportation projects we need for Georgia's future."
For more information on IT3, visit www.it3.ga.gov.