Federal and local officials aren’t yet sure how big a slice Cobb will get of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill passed this month, but Drew Raessler, the county’s transportation director, said being “project-ready” will be critical to the county’s success.

The key, Raessler told the MDJ, will likely be making sure Cobb has its ducks in a row, project-wise. It’s easier for the county to secure outside funding for projects it itself has already committed to via programs like its 1% sales tax for capital projects. That’s something Cobb has historically done well, he added.

“They’ve been calling it more ‘project-ready’ than ‘shovel-ready,’ because there’s a long lead time. You set up an expectation when you call it shovel-ready, which everyone learned in 2008,” he joked.

Raessler’s department is still working to learn more about how the funds will come down to the local level. Much of it, he said, will likely flow through the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority, Georgia Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration, Atlanta Regional Commission, and other such entities. Most funds are not yet set aside for specific projects.

“If we don’t have local funds ready to match, we’ll miss out on opportunities. So having transit specific funds will make us more competitive for transit grants,” he said, by way of example, “because we’ll have skin in the game.”

While Cobb is likely to see big dividends from the bill, it remains to be seen how much money will end up directly benefiting Cobb residents. Much of the cash will be doled out via a competitive grant application process. Other funds will trickle down the ladder of federal, state, and local governments over the course of the coming months — even years.

The largest slice of the federal bill will go to transportation projects, with $284 billion dedicated to roads, railways, mass transit and more, according to an analysis by the National Association of Counties.

Georgia is set to receive some $8.9 billion for road improvements alone under the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill passed this month — the largest portion of billions more to be directed to the state for all manner of spending.

Some of that money is already earmarked for particular spending items. Metro Atlanta alone is set to receive $923 million for public transit improvements over the next five years, according to the office of U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Georgia.

Statewide, Georgia is set to receive the following amounts:

♦ $8.9 billion for road and highway repairs

♦ $1.4 billion for transit spending

♦ $225 million for bridge repairs

♦ $619 million for airport improvements

♦ $100 million for broadband coverage

♦ $913 million for wastewater infrastructure

♦ $135 million for electric vehicle charging stations

The highway investment alone represents a 27% increase in what the state typically receives from the federal government for those projects, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Georgia can also compete for an additional $27.5 billion for road projects, $8 billion for rail projects, and $6 billion for street safety projects.

Commissioner Jerica Richardson, fresh off a conference of Georgia’s county commissioners in Savannah, said organizations like the National Association of Counties lobbied hard as the bill was being written to ensure local governments would get money directly.

“There was extraordinary advocacy to make sure that there was a separate bucket for counties so that counties could have direct jurisdiction over those funds,” Richardson said.

Her priorities, she added, will include putting significant investment into stormwater and flood mitigation infrastructure, as well as broadband internet access.

Chairwoman Lisa Cupid pointed to a slew of projects the county has already sought support for from the Atlanta Regional Commission as examples of future endeavors which could be helped along by the bill. Those include the Powder Springs Road and Chattahoochee River trails, improvements to the East-West Connector, and upgrading CobbLinc buses with modern, energy-efficient replacements.

“We are a county that prides ourself in the transportation infrastructure we have,” she said. “I can’t see this not being a win for all of Cobb residents.”


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(1) comment

richard plent

Most of the money will likely end up being used by the Cumberland CID. They are project ready to gobble up much of the funds.

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