Perdue talks transportation with the man who controls the flow of dollars

Gov. Sonny Perdue wrapped up his four-day Washington trip on Tuesday talking about his new favorite subject — transportation.

Perdue met Tuesday with U.S. Transportation Department Secretary Ray LaHood to discuss transportation funding possibilities through the $787 billion economic stimulus program.

The governor told my AJC colleague Bob Keefe that he mentioned his controversial plan to overhaul Georgia’s transportation agencies in his conversation with the nation’s transportation chief.

“Secretary (Ray) LaHood … was very encouraging of our effort to get value from both federal and state transportation dollars,” Perdue said.

Perdue said one specific area where Georgia might benefit from economic stimulus funding is to help pay for a $1.3 million study of Savannah Harbor as part of the huge port expansion project that would deepen the Savannah River channel to accommodate bigger cargo ships.

“We talked about … some of the stimulus money could go to finishing up that study,” Perdue said.

Overall, Perdue called his trip to Washington as part of the annual National Governors Association winter meeting a success. The staunch Republican, a former Democrat, said he was impressed by the new administration in D.C.

“I was very encouraged by the receptiveness and their willingness to work with the states,” he said.

Asked if he was going to stick around to hear President Barack Obama’s speech tonight, Perdue said nope. “I’ll watch it on TV from the road,” he said.

But the governor has scheduled a meeting with state department heads for 2 p.m. tomorrow to discuss the impact of the stimulus package.

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