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Blog: Cooperation, Creative Financing Promise Congestion Relief in Atlanta


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Yesterday, I visited a site that should serve as a reminder, to both Democrats and Republicans, that we can still find common ground.

The site was the top floor of a parking garage in Atlanta, one that boasted a very nice view of I-75 and I-575.

Maybe I should explain.

The Atlanta metro region enjoys one of the fastest growing populations and economies in the country, which means it also suffers from some of the worst congestion.

To help unjam that traffic, state and local leaders -- including leading Republicans like Governor Nathan Deal, and Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson -- have worked to build reversible lanes on Atlanta's Northwest Corridor. And that includes me, a former Democratic Mayor who now serves under a Democratic President.

In fact, that is why I traveled to Atlanta: to offer the Department of Transportation's help. From that parking garage, I was proud to announce that the region's Northwest Corridor Project will receive a $275-million loan from the Department of Transportation to help meet the overall cost of the project.

The loan comes from a program known as TIFIA, which stands for the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.

In this age of tight budgets and limited federal funds, we have to be just as innovative in how we pay for projects as we are in how we build them. And TIFIA is one way of doing that. It provides loans, loan guarantees and other assistance that help bring outside investors to the table so we can get projects moving that might otherwise be delayed or not built at all.

Take Northwest Corridor Project itself. If it were built using Georgia funds, it would take the state's entire transportation budget and its federal formula dollars to cover the cost. That's just not feasible.

Since the TIFIA program was launched in 1998, it's helped 37 major projects across the country. And Congress was so pleased with TIFIA that in the last transportation bill, it expanded the program into one of the largest loan programs of its kind in history. With the new funding from Congress, in fact, TIFIA is now able to support up to $50 billion in much-needed infrastructure investment.

We hope this investment continues, because more still needs to be done to reduce congestion and to repair our transportation system.

Americans spend up to 56 million hours a year waiting in traffic. And unless we continue to improve our roads -- as we're doing in Atlanta -- that number will only grow.

That's why we need Congress to take a cue from what legislators and leaders are doing in Georgia. They need to reach across the aisle, as they traditionally have done when it comes to investing in our nation's infrastructure, and keep America's transportation system the best in the world.

I believe we can do this. Because if we can find common ground in an Atlanta parking garage, then surely we can find it on Capitol Hill, too.

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