Transportation bill passes Georgia House of Representatives

The Georgia House of Representatives announced today via press release that they have passed House Bill 202 with a unanimous vote of 163 â" 0.

House Bill 202 would enact two changes within the Georgia Department of Transportation that would reduce project costs and improve funding opportunities for transportation projects.

"Making just a few changes to the current legislation will help the Department of Transportation save money," said Rep. Epps in the release. "It will also bring transportation funding to areas that need it the most."

State law currently requires GDOT to perform Value Engineering Studies on all construction projects with total combined costs of $10 million or more. HB 202 would raise this minimum required project cost for value engineering studies from $10 million to $50 million, which mirrors recent changes to federal requirements.

Value Engineering is a formal process that requires a multi-discipline team of experts to review key aspects of a transportation project and identify cost effective solutions that satisfy those aspects of the project. While Value Engineering Studies have provided an overall savings for GDOT, projects totaling $50 million or less do not always benefit from value engineering because the studies add unnecessary costs and delays. HB 202 would allow GDOT to use its discretion in deciding whether the costs and delays caused by a Value Engineering Study outweigh any potential benefit to these lower cost projects.

"Raising the requirement will provide GDOT the flexibility to target those projects that have demonstrated successful savings from value engineering studies and save time and money on those projects that historically have not yielded much savings from value engineering," said Rep. Epps.

The bill would exempt interstate projects from congressional balancing. It would also exempt freight routes if the route is proposed by GDOT's planning director and approved by the State Transportation Board.

"The expense required to maintain and expand interstates should not be counted against a district," said Rep. Epps in the release. "HB 202 is designed to provide relief to all congressional districts and focus their allocation on critical district-specific road projects. It is not designed to provide an advantage to any one congressional district over another."

Currently, Georgia's congressional balancing law requires that 85 percent of all federal and state transportation capital investments be divided equally among the 14 congressional districts. This balancing law also states that one-third of the remaining capital investment funds must be used for statewide economic development purposes. The remaining funds may be used with more flexibility, as long as no district receives 20 percent more funding than any other district.

While the balancing law is intended to ensure that no part of the state receives a disproportionate share of transportation funding, it has caused problems for districts that have interstate projects or important freight routes running through them. Because improvements to interstates and freight routes can cost substantially more than typical roads, these projects can consume a district's entire transportation allocation for several years, causing the district's other deserving projects to go unfunded.

"Interstate projects and freight routes are statewide priorities used by traffic throughout the state, but their expenses are counted solely against the congressional districts where they are located," added Rep. Epps in the release. "While the balancing requirement has been an important provision to promote equity in transportation spending, including interstate projects and important freight routes in congressional balancing can crowd out other projects in the district."