Plan Could Gut Responsibilities of Ga. DOT Board

Fri February 20, 2009 - Southeast Edition

ATLANTA (AP) A plan being considered by the state’s top leaders could gut the responsibilities of the Georgia Department of Transportation Board.

The board now approves project lists and sets policy for Georgia’s $2 billion annual transportation budget.

The state Transportation Board is elected by the Legislature.

But a draft organizational chart obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggests the state would combine the current State Road and Tollway Authority and the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority into a new entity.

Members would be appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House. The authority would create long- and short-term range statewide transportation plans and would write “distribution criteria’’ for money.

The governor would recommend the road budget, and the General Assembly would approve it.

Gov. Sonny Perdue, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson have not released details about their talks, but they have acknowledged considering a plan.

The three top leaders who would appoint the authority are all now Republicans. That leaves the question of whether Democrats in the General Assembly would vote for new taxes that could come under the influence of an authority.

Perdue’s spokesman Chris Schrimpf said there is no final plan. “When there is a final plan it will be announced,’’ he said.

It’s too early to know what the plan would mean for commuters, travelers and haulers.

Mike Meyer is a Georgia Tech professor and former chairman of the Transportation Research Board. He said roads could be built faster if the new system relies more on standardized formulas to determine which projects get money.