The state's new transportation funding mechanism was among the key topics last week when Dawson County's state delegation met to recap the 2015 legislative session.
Speaking to members of the local chamber of commerce on May 14, House Speaker David Ralston, Rep. Kevin Tanner and Sen. Steve Gooch agreed that attempting to solve the state's transportation funding issues was among the most challenging tasks for lawmakers this year.
"We were operating on an outdated funding model. We really had let the discussion get past the point of improvements and enhancements into maintenance and repair," Ralston said. "We've got hundreds and hundreds of bridges in this state that are in very defective condition."
The General Assembly passed a bill in April that allocates an additional $1 billion annually to the state's transportation needs.
Tanner said while many of his colleagues struggled with the bill, the vote was not difficult for him.
"We're not able to maintain our road system, our rail system, and we're not going to be able to continue to attract Mercedes or Caterpillar and all these major companies that the speaker and governor have worked so hard to bring to Georgia," he said. "It's a return on your investment and that's the way I look at it. I believe it was the right thing to do for Georgia and moving us forward."
Dawson County will reap the rewards of a new focus on transportation, including a new traffic light on Ga. 400 and Carlisle Road and another signal between Carlisle and Dawson Forest roads at the entrance to a planned retail development, according to Gooch.
"What that's going to do for Dawson County is it's going to bring over a million square feet of retail, and that's going to bring jobs, tourists and customers to this community," Gooch said.
While not perfect, Ralston said the state's transportation plan is a step in the right direction.
"We were able at the end of the day to really rise up our thinking and pass a measure that will stabilize our transportation funding to allow us to be good stewards to the existing resources that we have, to allow us to lessen our dependency on the uncertainties from Washington and allow us to really be competitive as a state with other states, particularly in the southeast, in meeting our transportation futures in Georgia," Ralston said.
"Georgia now has a transportation plan going forward. Without this deal, we would be digging our hole deeper every year."