Sandy Springs, Ga., mayor says Highway Trust Fund patch puts future projects at risk

Sandy Springs, Ga., Mayor Rusty Paul said Congress’ two-month patch to the Highway Trust Fund won’t affect his city’s summer construction projects but it does put future projects at risk.

“The passage won't affect this summer's schedule, because it is already resourced, but it cripples planning the out-years,” Paul said in a written statement to TI News Daily. “We will assume that some federal funding will be available, but we'll use minimalist assumptions.”

For now, Paul said many projects will fall into the "wait and see” category, and projects that could go forward won't because of funding uncertainty.

Last week Congress passed the short-term extension for the Highway Trust Fund, keeping it solvent until July 31, after a series of patches over the last eight years. Lawmakers have said the patch was necessary to give Congress time to come up with a long-term solution to funding the nation’s road and bridge repairs.
Sandy Springs, population 100,000, is 16 miles north of downtown Atlanta. The community gets a lot of traffic from trucks, commuters traveling to Atlanta and vacationers.

Paul said tying the trust fund’s user-based tax into inflation, which has been proposed in recent legislation, is counterproductive, adding that lower gas prices will increase traffic. That, in turn, means more wear and tear on the roads. Declining gas tax collections result in fewer funds to build and maintain the city’s infrastructure.

Paul said the city is able to make its road repairs due to diligent planning and a smart use of revenues. Sandy Springs spends about one-third of its revenues on capital improvements, and the city has fixed more than 180 miles of roads over the past 10 years, Paul said.

“We’re keeping up pretty well on fixing roads, but not so good planning for long-term projects. You can’t plan 10 years ahead if you’re only going to get six months of financing.”

While a staunch conservative, Paul added any long-term funding solution in Congress will have to be a bipartisan effort. “In today’s world you can’t get anything done without bipartisan legislation, it’s the practical thing to do if you want to pass any legislation.”