ATLANTA - Georgia is going to need $135 billion to $150 billion during the next 30 years to keep up with the demand for freight capacity of a fast-growing state, a logistics industry executive said Wednesday.
That’s far too much money for the state government to cover, Brad Skinner, a board member at Denver-based freight railroad operator OmniTrax, told members of the Georgia Freight & Logistics Commission. Georgia is going to have to turn to the private sector for help, he said.
“There’s not enough money to do some of the things Georgia needs to do,” said Skinner, who also serves as a member of the commission. “You have to find private investors with deep pockets.”
Georgia has experience with public-private partnerships in the transportation sector. The interstate toll lanes that have begun to pop up across metro Atlanta during the last several years are being built and financed by private consortiums that are recovering their investments from toll revenues.
Another example is the Appalachian Regional Port near Chatsworth, an inland terminal built by the Georgia Ports Authority, Murray County and CSX Corp.
A subcommittee headed by Skinner recommended Wednesday that the commission submit legislation to the General Assembly expanding the role of the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) – which oversees the toll lanes – to negotiating public-private partnerships for freight infrastructure projects across the state.
“There’s a lot of money out there that I believe can be captured,” Skinner said.
Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, one of the commission’s co-chairmen, said financing freight infrastructure improvements through public-private partnerships would give the state a new economic development tool.
“Expanding the role of SRTA could really be a game-changer, especially for rural Georgia,” he said.
While the state courts private investment in freight projects, some public funding will also be required.