This week’s Courier Herald column:
Whenever a public discussion begins about needed
improvements for Georgia’s infrastructure, camps quickly form and divide into a
battle of transit versus roads. The
debate devolves into whether people want to ride together in transit, or
whether we can build enough roads for everyone to be able to drive in the most
congested parts of the state.
While they continue to argue about moving people, trucks moving
freight continue to fill Georgia’s highways.
Truck traffic is great enough on Atlanta’s I-285 bypass that
the law requiring trucks to stick to the right two lanes is all but
unenforceable. There just isn’t room in
those lanes to fit all the trucks anymore.
Motorists are left generally with one lane that is usually exclusively
for cars, and then trying to navigate three lanes of trucks when it’s time to
exit. It’s like a real world version of
the video game Frogger.
In the rest of Georgia, the problem usually manifests itself
with lines of traffic backing up on two-lane interstates waiting for a slow
truck to pass an even slower truck.
There are also places well known to the state’s travelers such as trying
to navigate the I-16 to I-75 interchange.
Merging there isn’t for the faint of heart.
The upside of all the truck traffic is that it’s a sign of a
growing economy, and additional jobs for Georgia’s logistics industry. Distribution Centers now line I-16 and most
freeways leading in and out of Atlanta on all sides.
Then there’s Georgia’s ports, which continue to grow and set
new records monthly. Some have taken to
blaming the ports for the increased truck traffic, but that’s an exercise in
finding a scapegoat.
Atlanta, specifically, would be having a truck problem if
the ports were growing or not. The fact
of the matter is that Atlanta continues to grow, and with a metro Area population
now bigger than 30 states, it’s a concentration of people whose roads – for trucks
and for passenger cars – haven’t tried to keep up for a generation.
All of the things Georgians buy via the internet or at brick
and mortar stores have to get to us somehow, and at some stage that’s likely
going to involve a truck or three on our highways. We’re a state with more people, buying more
The Georgia Legislature will take up the matter of truck
traffic with a joint House-Senate Commission this summer, seeing both an issue
to be solved and economic development opportunities. The “Georgia Freight and Logistics Commission”
will “find ways to move freight more
efficiently throughout Georgia spurring economic growth and job creation.” per
the press release announcing the House Speaker and Lieutenant Governor’s
Appointments to the group.
includes three Senators and three Representatives, six members from the
logistics industry, and four representative members from local governments. Representatives from the Georgia Municipal
Association, Association of County Commissioners of Georgia, the Georgia and
Metro Atlanta Chambers of Commerce, the Georgia Department of Transportation,
and the Georgia Ports Authority will serve in an ex-officio (non-voting) capacity.
trying to over-simplify their work, the study will be a matrix of
alternatives. Reducing truck traffic
likely means increasing the amount of freight shipped by rail. Every box car or container on a train
represents a truck not on Georgia’s roads.
addition, Atlanta’s traffic problem is one that many other Georgia communities
see as an opportunity. Upgrading the
state’s highways with routes suitable for large trucks that bypass metro
Atlanta would alleviate some traffic issues while opening the door for smaller,
rural communities to attract their share of employers in the logistics field.