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Keeping transportation costs at a fiscally responsible price
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Although I was just recently named chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, I am not new to the discussion on Georgia's wide range of transportation needs.

As a former DOT board member and a former county commissioner, I am well-versed in the transportation needs of more rural areas of the state, and as a former member of the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Overview Committee (MARTOC) I have also had the chance to review some of the common obstacles faced by a metropolitan mass transit system.

My past experience with Georgia's diverse transportation infrastructure has given me a unique perspective in chairing the Senate Transportation Committee. The legislation considered and debated by this committee has a profound impact on our state's ability to attract new business investment, bring tourism revenue to our state, solve traffic jams and keep roadways safe for Georgia and all its visitors. I have been able to see firsthand both successes and frustrations-and this knowledge serves as a real-life guide on why it is so important to move good transportation policy out of the Senate Transportation Committee.

While it is important for Georgia to have a strong transportation network, it must be at a fiscally responsible price. The catch-22 with any sort of state infrastructure improvement is that taxpayers pay the bill-and therefore, it is important that any pursued projects truly benefit the greater good of the state.

This is why I am sponsoring Senate Bill 70 as it works its way through the legislative process.

Currently, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) is allowed to bid out and contract certain projects such as buildings, bridges and rail corridors if the work needed can be clearly defined, or if a contractor is able to complete the project in a significantly faster time frame. However, technology projects that could provide key insight and data on improving traffic flow, reducing costs and improving return on investment cannot currently be performed by contractors. This causes a significant delay to our project list.

SB 70 would allow GDOT to use the same "design-build," or contracting, procedure for those key technology deployments. In addition, the bill would also allow GDOT to combine services into a single contract using the same procedure if public utilities need to be relocated in order to complete a GDOT project.

Furthermore, SB 70 would also allow GDOT to utilize a one-step bid procurement process if it is in the best interest of the state.

SB 70 passed out of the Senate last week and will now move to the House of Representatives.

Last week, I attended a press conference to recognize Georgia's efforts to use recycled tire rubber in roadway paving projects. Recycled tire rubber has been proven to be a high performing alternative to traditional oil-based polymers used in most asphalt mixtures and offers a viable solution for a problematic waste material. GDOT has been working closely with Liberty Tire Recycling and a colleague of mine in the Georgia House, Rep. Randy Nix (R - LaGrange) to revise road specifications and use recycled tire rubber in road projects on a case-by-case basis. Approximately 550,000 tons of crumb rubber modified (CRM) asphalt mixes made out of recycled tire rubber have been used in GDOT projects since 2006, and it is likely that the 2013 paving season will greatly add to the number of total tons used to pave Georgia roads.

Both SB 70 and the future use of rubberized asphalt in state road projects will allow our state to maximize taxpayer dollars, reduce waste by reusing available resources and better analyze traffic patterns statewide. Broken roadways and outdated technology halts the flow of traffic and is frustrating to both Georgia residents and businesses. Anything the Georgia General Assembly can do to keep traffic moving at a cost-effective price should be a top priority.

HB 202, which provides for requirements for performing value engineering studies and clarifies criteria for the allocation of federal and state funds by the Department of Transportation, passed the House of Representatives unanimously last week. I am looking forward to reviewing this bill in committee and bringing it to the Senate floor.
I am sponsoring Senate Resolution 293 to honor the life of Ralph A. Pierce and dedicate SR 22 in his memory. Pierce was the oldest living veteran in Lumpkin County until his passing last year, and I am thankful for his courageous service to our country and the U.S. Army during World War II.

Again, we had many visitors from District 51 at the State Capitol last week, including the Future Farmers of America chapter from Fannin County, Dr. Joe Dufresne from Blue Ridge and a group from Lanier Technical College. I also visited with the local members of the adult literacy group represented by John Gerheim.

I had a great meeting at Mercier's Apple House restaurant last weekend, and I am looking forward to my next district meeting and joining state Rep. Kevin Tanner on Saturday, March 1, at Ryan's Steakhouse in Dawson County. Come on out for breakfast and an informational meeting at 9 a.m. All are welcome to attend.

Although I have been spending a lot of time at the State Capitol lately, I am never too busy to discuss pending legislation or district concerns. Feel free to contact either my district office or my Capitol office at any time- my door and phone lines are always open.

Sen. Steve Gooch serves as chairman of the Transportation Committee. He represents the 51st Senate District, which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties. He may be reached at (404) 656-9221 or via e-mail at