Update 3:30 p.m.: If Tuesday’s hearing was any indication, Gov. Sonny Perdue’s choice to become the state’s first transportation planning director should have little trouble getting confirmed by the House Transportation Committee next week.
Todd Long, a veteran civil engineer with years of service at the Department of Transportation, encountered little in the way of opposition Tuesday at a confirmation hearing before a special transportation subcommittee. After more than three hours of questioning, the subcommittee unanimously voted to send Long’s nomination to the full committee.
“We look forward to seeing you then for more fun and frivolity,” subcommittee chairman Rep. Ed Rynders (R-Albany) joked after the voice vote. The full committee will meet Aug. 19.
Long, a Georgia Tech grad, is Perdue’s choice to lead the state’s road planning efforts, via a position created by the transportation reform bill approved this past legislative session. That bill also gave the House transportation committee the power to approve the governor’s nomination.
If confirmed, Long will work for the governor, but have to navigate the sometimes conflicting interests of Perdue, legislative leadership and the state Department of Transportation board.
Long said Tuesday he would rely on the “checks and balances” built into the new system through a system of “engaged discussion.”
If there were spots of disagreement between Long and the subcommittee, it often focused on the split of state transportation dollars between metro Atlanta and rural parts of the state. Rep. David Lucas (D-Macon) said it appears to him rural Georgia often gets the short end of the funding stick.
“If you look at the numbers, Atlanta has not gotten all the money,” Long said. “Listen, I’m bottom line. I don’t want to create two Georgias. I want to do transportation planning for Georgia. Not for Atlanta and for rural Georgia.
Update 10:30 a.m.: Downstate lawmakers are questioning Todd Long, the governor’s choice to be the state’s new transportation planner, about balancing the needs of metro Atlanta with those of rural Georgia.
Rep. David Lucas (D-Macon) said he’s concerned that rural Georgia does not get the attention it deserves and that metro Atlanta gets more than its share.
But Long challenged that position.
“You feel Atlanta gets all the money,” he said. “If you look at the numbers, Atlanta has not gotten all the money. Listen, I’m bottom line. I don’t want to create two Georgias. I want to do transportation planning for Georgia, not for Atlanta and rural Georgia.”
Update 10:16 a.m.: Facing questions now from members of this special transportation subcommittee, Todd Long just addressed the one highway issue near and dear to metro Atlantans’ hearts.
In response to a question from Rep. Jeff May (R-Monroe), Long said to “move the needle on transportation in metro Atlanta, you do have to spend some major money.”
Tunnels, he said, could be one possibility. But any time you start trying to improve traffic through the heart of the city, the dollars ring up fast.
“Doubling down on your investment is the only way to move the needle big time,” Long said.
Original post: Todd Long, the veteran Department of Transportation engineer, is giving his opening statement right now to a House Transportation subcommittee charged with considering his nomination to be the state’s first transportation planner.
If you’d like to watch, go to this site and click on the “stand alone player” link to the right.
Long is Gov. Sonny Perdue’s choice to fill the new powerful position that was created through the transportation reform bill adopted by the Legislature this past session.
It is an unusual situation. The Senate, not the House, has traditionally been the legislative body that affirms or denies gubernatorial appointments. But as part of the negotiations that led to the overhaul of the DOT, the House gained this important role.
Whether this subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Ed Rynders (R-Albany) offers pointed questions for Long remains to be seen. But the eight members of the subcommittee here today are listening intently.
“It is a chance of a lifetime,” Long said.