Editor’s note: Transportation issues always prove to be hot topics in metro Atlanta. With a special purpose local option sales tax for regional transportation projects on the ballot this summer (T-SPLOST), debates over what’s needed to fix our transportation problems are heating  up even more than usual.

Dunwoody resident Bob Dallas writes an occasional column for Reporter Newspapers and www.ReporterNewspapers.net called “Dallas On Transportation” or “DOT.” Dallas headed the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety under former Gov. Sonny Perdue. He will answer questions about public policy on transportation and related needs. Direct questions to him at editor@reporternewspapers.net.

By Bob Dallas

I was headed towards beginning our conversation on the Transportation Investment Act of 2010 (“TIA” a/k/a T-SPLOST), but encountered a detour along the way.

Webster defines detour as “a long or roundabout route taken to avoid something or to make a visit along the way.”  In our case, it is to revisit both managed lanes and the state’s transportation planner.  But more importantly, this detour will give insight into where our state is headed with its transportation future.

We recently spoke about the future of managed lanes in Georgia.  I shared my thoughts on how the future of Public Private Partnerships (P3) in Georgia will look like the Orlando-Orange County Tollway Authority and the governor will control this policy.

Since that discussion, the state’s transportation planner, Todd Long, moved to become the deputy Georgia Department of Transportation commissioner.  Just recently, the governor nominated, to be confirmed by state legislative transportation committees, Toby Carr to succeed Todd.  Toby is the governor’s transportation policy advisor.

By way of background, Todd is a born and bred Georgia Tech engineer with a successful GDOT career.  But while being a great transportation engineer, Todd also proved you can be an engineer and have great political skills.  Contrary to popular belief, Sir Isaac Newton did not have a law against this!

As I have repeatedly noted, politics and transportation are intertwined.  Like concrete and asphalt, though different, they both are integral to successful transportation policy and implementation.

With the passage of the TIA, the policy was moved to the planner position and implementation remained with the GDOT commissioner.  Todd was an excellent selection as the state’s first transportation planner as he worked very well with all stakeholders.  In fact, it has been said without his guidance, the twelve regions’ transportation projects making up the lists for the July 31transportation referendum may never have come to fruition.

It is Todd’s political skills, though admittedly backed up with his engineering skills, which made him successful on this race track.

While Todd was appointed by our last governor and reappointed by our current governor, it is important to reconfirm the governor is in the driver’s seat.  Thus, the appointment of Toby to serve as the state transportation planner solidifies the governor’s authority to execute his policy.  This is what the TIA intended.

By way of background, Toby has excellent political skills.  These include serving as executive director of the Georgia Republican Party, key manager of the governor’s transition team, and just recently the governor’s transportation policy advisor.  Anyone who knows Toby appreciates his ability to bring parties together to achieve goals.

With more than a year and two Legislative sessions as the governor’s transportation policy advisor, Toby has the needed foundation, which will continue to grow in his new role.  Moreover, Toby has the governor’s trust to carry out the governor’s transportation goals.

With Toby in place, it is fair to say the road is open—even if the ribbon cutting had yet to take place.

In other words, unlike any time in recent memory, the governor will decide where and how new roads of significance will be built and operated in Georgia.  While all existing roads may lead to Rome; in Georgia, all new roads lead to the governor.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.