Georgia governor, Atlanta mayor headed to DC to lobby for port dredging, passenger rail funding

Well some very interesting news this morning from Jim Galloway at the AJC’s Political Insider.

According to Galloway, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed are headed next week to Washington “for a strategy session on Port of Savannah funding with a bipartisan assembly of Georgia’s congressional delegation.” Deal’s office is apparently hoping that Reed can also help arrange a meeting with President Obama. (I’ve written before about the extreme political attacks that Deal has made on Obama in the past; the well-regarded Atlanta mayor apparently has a good relationship with the President.)

I don’t know if Deal and Reed would be so eager to expend their political capital on this project if there were a clearer understanding of the economic analysis, which is expected to increase efficiency of transportation but not increase cargo.

Also, according to Galloway:

The Democratic-Republican duo will also be paying a June 1 visit to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, to persuade him that Georgia is indeed serious about bringing mass transit – i.e., rail – to the state.

Robinson, the spokesman for Deal, said LaHood issued an invitation to new governors last December, asking them to stop by his office when they had put together a transit plan. “We’re taking him seriously,” Robinson said.

Georgia has missed out on serious federal funding for rail in the past. And in 2009, during a visit to Atlanta, LaHood famously warned the state that such funding is only possible “if Georgia gets its act together.”

This is really good news.

Areas of metro Atlanta desperately need more passenger rail for commuters if they are to thrive over the long term. High speed passenger rail linking major Georgia cities to each other and to metro areas in neighboring states could also be a great investment in infrastructure that could improve the quality of life for millions of Southerners.

Maybe a conservative like Deal will finally be able to squelch the silly arguments about rail not paying for itself. Highways and roads don’t pay for themselves either. Some investments in infrastructure are best done by the government, and I have no doubt that an investment in high speed rail and passenger rail in key areas would pay off big in the future.