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Key vote on transportation post due Wednesday

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

The process of approving Todd Long as director of planning for the Georgia Department of Transportation is expected to advance to the next level on Wednesday.

According to the House of Representatives, the House's Transportation Subcommittee on Approval of the Director of Planning, unanimously voted Aug. 11 to recommend Long for the position.

State Reps. Steve Davis (R-McDonough) and Glenn Baker (D-Jonesboro) were two of the lawmakers appointed to the subcommittee by Rep. Jay Roberts (R-Ocilla), House Transportation Committee chairman. The subcommittee was organized to review Gov. Sonny Perdue's recent selection of Long.

Long is aware of the transportation needs along the Interstate 75 corridor, according to Baker, and would be able to hit the ground running. Davis said that during the subcommittee hearing, he asked Long about the portion of I-75 passing through Henry County, and was assured that it is in Long's plans for future consideration.

"I'm really excited about that," Davis said. "As a state legislator, that has been my top priorities since I ran for office."

"I have actually worked with him [Long] on projects for our community in the past, including the auxiliary lane of I-75, and Eagle's Landing Parkway," said Davis. "What this means to our community is that he already has a broad understanding of our growth, and the struggles we have to keep up with our transportation infrastructure."

"We did talk about providing reliable trips [through that area]," said Long, of his discussions with Davis about south-metro sections of I-75. "It's a treacherous trip through there."

One of the possible solutions, he said, is to add an additional lane, called a "managed lane," along portions of I-75. Another solution could be constuction of High Occupancy toll lanes, he added.

Additionally, Long said he hopes to bring a GRTA Express lot to Jodeco Road at I-75 in the next 12 months. The lot would initially be 800 spaces, but would have the capacity to be expanded to 1,000 spaces.

Rep. Baker pledged his support for Long. "As the only freshman asked to sit on this subcommittee, I took the appointment very seriously, and am happy to say that Todd Long seems more than prepared for the job," Baker said.

Long has worked for the GDOT for 18 years, and has been with the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) for two years, according to Baker.

The subcommittee's recommendation will go before the House's full Transportation Committee for approval on Wednesday, Baker said.

Long will be effective in expediting transportation projects in Georgia, he said. "We feel he brings a lot to the table, to avoid the backlog of shovel-ready projects in the state.

"The director of planning will have a vital role in determining transportation projects in Clayton and Henry counties, as well as the rest of the state," he said. "Together, Long and GDOT Commissioner Vance Smith will make a good team to move transportation projects forward," he added.