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Work on I-285/Ga. 400 interchange to move forward despite possible loss of federal funding
by Christina A. Cassidy
Associated Press Writer
May 15, 2014 03:57 PM | 4542 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Georgia will move forward with major transportation projects despite the threat of a loss in federal transportation funding, by using $81.5 million in accrued state motor fuel funds and the sale of $130 million in previously authorized bonds, state officials said Thursday.

Gov. Nathan Deal said the funding plan is a "stopgap measure" and will allow the state to proceed with reconstructing the Interstate 285/Ga. 400 interchange in metro Atlanta, among the most congested in the country. The board of the Department of Transportation approved the funding plan at a Thursday meeting in Bainbridge.

"We are currently utilizing all the tools that the state has available — accrued motor fuel revenues, authorized bonds, Georgia's AAA bond rating and an improving schedule of debt payments — to facilitate major transportation projects," Deal said in a statement.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has said the federal Highway Trust Fund is expected to run dry by late August and that transportation aid to states would be delayed without congressional action. Last month, the Obama administration sent Congress a four-year, $302 billion transportation plan.

On Thursday, a Senate panel approved a bill that would keep transportation funding at current levels plus inflation. The bill, however, doesn't appear to close a $100 billion gap between project costs and projected revenue from federal fuel taxes and other fees that are the source of the federal Highway Trust Fund. The Senate Finance Committee is charged with finding the money, and lawmakers appear unwilling to raise the fuel taxes.

Other states are making plans to delay commitments to new construction projects because of the uncertainty. But Georgia officials said they plan to continue.

"This step allows us the opportunity to keep Georgia moving forward through vital summer construction months, supports jobs for Georgians and enhances the long-term commitment to our growing transportation system," said state Transportation Commissioner Keith Golden.

The governor's office said the interchange project, estimated to cost $970 million, is on track for environmental approval in 2015 and the state needs to be ready to begin construction.

"Improvements to the interchange will provide important economic and quality of life benefits and will expand Georgia's role as a major logistics hub for global commerce," Deal said.

Deal was among those who backed a 2012 ballot measure for a penny sales tax to pay for transportation projects in 12 regions around the state. Voters largely rejected the measure, although three regions did approve it. It failed in the region that included metro Atlanta.

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