Pat pointed to Mark Stencel’s Congressional Quarterly article this past weekend about the political hurdles Obama’s federal HSR plan faces. One of these issues is well, federalism itself. The Atlanta Journal Constitution has a good piece about how woefully unprepared the state’s Department of Transportation is for implementing any sort of passenger rail improvements. This is despite the fact that Altanta is supposed to be a regional HSR hub under the plan. Here’s what one metropolitan Atlanta policymaker said:
“Let’s face it, our Department of Transportation has for years been primarily a department of highways,” said Chick Krautler, director of the Atlanta Regional Commission.
That’s hardly surprising; this is the same DOT that allowed metro Atlanta to become the hellish asphalt sprawl we know today. When endless freeway widening and traffic engineering cause issues in my hometown of Knoxville, TN, people say “Gee, this place is becoming just like Atlanta.”
And the article rightly frets about what this backwardness means for Atlanta’s position as the cultural and economic capital of the South. North Carolina and Virginia, as we’ve seen here at TFA, are taking the initiative when it comes to rail, and it’s helping them to stay vibrant and enticing in a tumultuous national economy. But hey, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce President Sam Williams isn’t worried. At least they’re not as backwards as South Carolina!
On the other hand, he said: “Virginia and North Carolina are way, way ahead of us, probably by 20 years. I have been very disappointed that GDOT has not gotten onto this thing a lot sooner. But South Carolina’s worse off than we are. I think this is a great shot in the arm to rejuvenate Georgia and South Carolina.”
Well, I suppose. Whatever helps them sleep at night. And we’ve known for a while that GDOT isn’t the only one in trouble. But there’s no time like the present to start retooling your state’s rickety and traditional DOT for a more sustainable transportation future.