Denis O’Hayer of WABE (90.1FM) has just posted an intriguing conversation with House Speaker David Ralston, in which the north Georgia lawmaker broached the idea of cutting a deal with Tennessee – water for speedy access to Atlanta’s airport and Savannah’s port.
For decades, Georgia lawmakers have argued that our state was deprived of water from the Tennessee River by an early 19th century surveyor’s mistake. But Ralston doesn’t raise that sticky issue:
Ralston: I have not had any formal discussions with any of the officials in Tennessee. From time to time, I’ve had occasion to visit with members of the Tennessee legislature and different meetings, and this subject has come up.
I wouldn’t characterize those discussions as being formal at all. I’m hopeful that in the not-too-distant future, though, we’ll be able to sit down and have a meeting where this will be the only thing on the agenda.
O’Hayer: Is there a timetable?
Ralston: We’ve all got busy seasons, what with redistricting coming up. But I’m hoping it will be sooner rather than later. The issue of water is probably the most important issue facing our state now. Obviously, there needs to be some dispatch with which we handle the issue.
O’Hayer asked the speaker to elaborate on remarks made to the Atlanta Press Club last month.
Ralston: What I was talking about is that we have a lot in common with our neighbors in Tennessee. We have a lot of economic development opportunities that don’t really recognize the existence of a state line. The Volkswagen plant, for example, is up and going up there now. And that’s going to create opportunities for Georgians….
I think that part of Tennessee is going to need transportation enhancements. They’ve got an airport sitting up there that is under utilized in the view of many people. It would seem to me that if Georgia and Tennessee are willing to sort of think outside the box, and think long term here, that we can have a discussion about addressing some of the transportation needs that that part of Tennessee may have, as well as addressing the water needs of Georgia.
That sort of discussion would be an interesting and exciting one to have.
O’Hayer: Would that include a Chattanooga to Atlanta rail line?
Ralston: That’s one option. Obviously that would be of great benefit to that airport facility up there….I think any fair discussion of the future of that corridor would have to include that as a possibility.
O’Hayer: What could we offer Tennessee that they couldn’t get on their own?
Ralston: We could offer them better access to the greatest port facility on the Eastern Seaboard….Obviously, enhanced access to Hartsfield-Jackson airport I think would matter to them. We have a much better network of interstate highways than that part of Tennessee. There are any number of things that we could offer that would be of benefit to that part of that state, for a long time going into the future.
O’Hayer: Would that include the I-3 proposal through north Georgia?
Ralston: I’m not sure I-3 is a very viable option….putting aside the very substantial environmental concerns….Before we go down the road of spending money talking about building that interstate, we ought to look at alternatives. I think rail is a great alternative to talk about. We’ve got some of the rail infrastructure in place that serves the port facility. That may be a better alternative.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider