Bartow’s commissioner is hoping a new legislative panel studying how to more efficiently move freight through Georgia can address some long-standing county transportation issues as well.
Commissioner Steve Taylor will be part of the new Georgia Freight & Logistics Commission organized to find ways to move freight more efficiently on Georgia’s interstates and railroads “while spurring economic growth and job creation,” a news release stated.
Taylor will join state and local elected officials and logistics professionals on the commission after his appointment Wednesday, May 15, by State House Speaker David Ralston.
The Bartow commissioner said he hoped it will tackle such issues as a long-discussed high-speed passenger train line linking Atlanta and Chattanooga through Cartersville.
Federal officials in 2017 unveiled a preferred route for the rail line connecting Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport with downtown Chattanooga. Cartersville would have one of eight stations along the route.
GDOT was to study the next step in the plan, including identifying funding.
Taylor said he also hoped the Commission will address the problem of freight trains blocking heavily-traveled rail crossings for days at a time in Bartow County.
“We know we need the trains, but we also would like to see them keep moving, don’t stop right in the middle of the busiest intersections,” Taylor said. “Maybe we can work with the railroads and have some conversation in that regard.”
Leaders of other Georgia cities and counties also have complained in recent years about the practice.
“I’m just starting and we haven’t had our first meeting yet,” Taylor said. “There’s a lot to learn, but I think it’s really going to be important to this community to have a member on that particular commission.”
Taylor got a boost for appointment to the commission after the Association County Commissioners of Georgia recommended him. Taylor is a board member of the Association which represents the state’s elected county government officials.
Ralston said Taylor “also has a wealth of experience in economic development as both a small business owner and local official.”
“With Bartow County being home to a major interstate corridor and miles of freight rail, Commissioner Taylor’s knowledge will be invaluable as the commission does their work,” he said.
Taylor said he believed Ralston and other state leaders also wanted him on the commission because “they wanted different regions represented.”
“Bartow County is in an area of northwest Georgia that’s logistically important for the state as far as trucking and rail,” Taylor said.
“From what I understand, the northwest Georgia area is probably the biggest area for manufacturing in the state, so it was important for the speaker to make one of his appointments from this area.”
The Army Corps of Engineers’ $1 billion deepening of Savannah’s port by late 2021 will allow larger container ships to access the port and is expected to significantly increase surface freight movement through Georgia.
However, Taylor noted the new Appalachian Regional Port in northwest Georgia gives freight haulers a cost-efficient alternative to traveling often congested interstate highways through metro Atlanta.
The facility offers intermodal freight transport service that uses CSX rail lines to link directly to Savannah’s port on the Atlantic Ocean.
“Manufacturing in this area uses that port and they use rail tremendously,” Taylor said.
He said the Cass-White Road corridor off I-75 in central Bartow has become a major growth area for industry and warehousing.
Chick-fil-A recently announced it will create hundreds of jobs with construction of its first company-owned distribution center in the Cass-White corridor.
“It’s a good area, not a lot of residential growth up there,” he said. “It’s just a good area close to the interstate for manufacturing.”
Bartow also is home to one of the state’s most heavily-used CSX rail routes which splits in Cartersville and links to Chattanooga, Tennessee, on one line and the fast-growing upper East Tennessee region on the other, Taylor said.
“We’re an important corridor moving south on to Atlanta and then on to the port,” he said. “Strategically speaking, this community is in a really busy spot as far as rail and trucking goes.”
Ralston and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan announced their appointees to the commission which was established by House Resolution 37 in the 2019 legislative session.
Ralston said Georgia “has a strong competitive advantage over other states in freight and logistics, and we are going to grow our lead by investing in infrastructure and bringing industry partners together.”
“With the world’s busiest airport and the nation’s largest and fastest growing container port right here in Georgia, our Freight & Logistics Commission will work to meet the growing demand to move freight throughout our state and beyond,” he said.
Duncan said Georgia’s economic prosperity “has led to huge business and population growth.”
“However, in many areas of our state, that growth has led to highway congestion,” he said.
“The Freight & Logistics Commission will be charged with studying how we can harness the logistics industry to provide transportation solutions to Georgia’s businesses and citizens,” Duncan said.
In addition to Taylor, Ralston appointed Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach; Brad Skinner of OmniTRAX; Rick Toole of Alfred Benesch & Company; Derrick Johnson of UPS; House Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville; District 135 State Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus; and District 109 State Rep. Dale Rutledge, R-McDonough; .
Duncan appointed Rebecca Brewster of the American Transportation Research Institute; George Powers of TradePort Logistics LLC; Stephanie Smith of The Home Depot; Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore; Lowndes County Commissioner Mark Wisenbaker Jr.; Senate Transportation Chairman Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta; District 51 State Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega; and District 25 State Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson.
Beach and Tanner were designated as co-chairmen of the commission.