Originally created 03/31/04

Traffic wreaks havoc on residents, roads



The average Augustan forks over $157 each year for costs associated with traffic congestion, a new study of Georgia's transportation has found.

"Traffic, which has always been a problem in Atlanta, is now creeping into the rest of the state in places like Augusta," Frank Moretti, the director of policy research at The Road Information Program, the organization that put out the study, said at a news conference Tuesday.

Mr. Moretti and Wayne Shackelford, a former commissioner of Georgia's Department of Transportation, and Mike Kenn, the president of Georgians for Better Transportation, flew into Columbus, Savannah and then Daniel Field to advocate for increased transportation spending on the state level and to discuss increased traffic problems.

Mr. Moretti said Georgia, the fastest-growing state east of the Mississippi River, has not kept up with that growth in terms of transportation improvements.

A major reason for the lapse, he said, has been the minimal amount of state funding devoted to highway improvements in the past 15 years.

While federal funding on this issue has steadily gone up, state dollars for transportation have dropped 14 percent.

For one, the $98 in user fees Georgians are charged annually is "by far the lowest level of any state in the country," Mr. Moretti said, adding that the state's gas tax is the lowest of the 50 states.

"These user fees help with transportation improvements and to support the highway program," he said, explaining that without that money, which includes driver's license and license tag fees, road improvements must be delayed.

Mr. Shackleford said one consequence locally of the deficiency in transportation funding has been that much-needed large-scale projects, including the Savannah River Parkway, still have not been completed.

"That was needed long before I became commissioner," he said.

In speaking about congestion, Mr. Moretti said Georgians now spend a total of about 42 hours each year on the road stuck in traffic.

"They're giving up one week of work or vacation time stuck in traffic," he said. "And they're getting home later to dinner and spending less and less time with their family."

Report Card

The Road Information Program's report card on Georgia's roads and bridges:

Roads: B. Approximately 8 percent of Georgia's state-maintained roads and highways are in poor condition.

Bridges: B. Of Georgia's bridges, 21 percent are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

Congestion: D+. More than half of Georgia's urban freeways are considered congested.

Safety: C. The traffic-fatality rate in Georgia is below the national average, with an average of 1,551 people killed annually in state traffic accidents over the past five years.

Funding: D. State-generated funding for highway repairs in Georgia has decreased by 14 percent since 1990.

Reach Dena Levitz at (706) 823-3339 or dena.levitz@augustachronicle.com.