Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Governor Announces Transportation Infrastructure Project Grant Awards

Eight Georgia Community Improvement Districts to receive funding totaling $10 Million

Governor Sonny Perdue announced today the approval of $10 million in grant funding for eight transportation infrastructure projects in Metro Atlanta. The projects were developed by Community Improvement Districts (CIDs) and focus on improving mobility and congestion in business centers. In addition, the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) today approved parameters for financing transportation infrastructure loans totaling up to $4 million. Funding for the grants and loans will be provided by the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank (GTIB), a revolving infrastructure investment fund established in 2008 by Georgia legislators as a part of Governor Perdue’s legislative agenda. Only CIDs are eligible for the grants. The eight CIDs awarded are as follows: Town Center, Perimeter, South Fulton, Downtown Atlanta, Gwinnett Village, Buckhead, Evermore and Cumberland.

“These partnerships have resulted in transportation investment that will decrease congestion and increase the efficiency of our existing transportation facilities,” said Governor Perdue. “The projects approved today are a testament to the commitment these communities have made to advance major transportation improvements in their area.”

SRTA manages the GTIB funds, as well as the extensive grant application review and selection process. Final approval is made by the SRTA Board.

“The projects awarded today represents over $60 million in total project value and provides much needed transportation improvements to communities that have approved this innovative financial solution,” said SRTA Executive Director Dr. Gena Evans. “In addition, GTIB loans will offer competitive rates and terms for those communities trying to accelerate completion of projects or redirect focus on projects that were previously overlooked.”

Serving as a member of the SRTA Board, GDOT Commissioner Vance C. Smith, Jr., applauded SRTA’s efforts and the partnerships created in the eight community improvement districts.

“These projects represent exactly the kind of collaboration and partnerships between state and local governments that will help us move transportation forward throughout Georgia,” said Commissioner Smith.

SRTA began receiving applications for grants in October 2009. Thirteen grant applications and two loan applications were received totaling over $21 million in requested funding. Grant applications were scored using a point system based on the following criteria: transportation/engineering merit, economic merit, local, state and federal matching funds and project specifics including the project phase and feasibility.

Below are details of the eight CID grant projects:

Town Center Community Improvement District

The Town Center Community Improvement District Project will restructure segments of Big Shanty Road in order to alleviate congestion at the Chastain Road/I-75 Interchange. Grant funds will also help to provide a more direct route for the Kennesaw State University population and local residents to access the Town Center Regional Activity Center and the Noonday Creek multi-use trail. The GTIB grant award is $1.75 million.

Perimeter Community Improvement District

The Perimeter Community Improvement District Project is intended to relieve the severe congestion along Ashford Dunwoody Road in the area surrounding I-285 through the diverging diamond interchange (DDI) concept, the second DDI in the United States. The DDI would provide additional capacity without reconstructing new lanes by restriping, altering signal timing, improving turning conditions and reconstructing a ramp. The GTIB grant award amount is $800,000.

South Fulton Community Improvement District

The South Fulton Community Improvement District Project will widen 1.69 miles of Oakley Industrial Boulevard from two lanes to three lanes and will tie to a new bridge over the CSX railroad to the west and a new development to the east. The project is intended to increase safety by reducing conflicts between industrial and residential traffic. The GTIB grant award amount is $1,500,000

Atlanta Downtown Improvement District

The Downtown Atlanta Traffic Signal System Upgrades and Retiming Project will serve to improve traffic signal system operations, mitigate traffic congestion and ensure consistent wireless communication among signalized intersections in downtown Atlanta. The GTIB grant award amount is $1.49 million.

Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District

The Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District Project will heighten economic development, relieve traffic congestion and provide for safe movement of vehicles and pedestrians through the intersection of Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Singleton Road. As a part of the Urban Redevelopment Plan, this project will address the prevalent issues around the corridor including vacancy, blight and crime that has deterred existing businesses to relocate while new businesses and residents have not replaced those vacancies. This trend has been partly due to inadequate infrastructure, traffic congestion and obsolete land use patterns. Redevelopment of this area can halt this trend and revitalize a once thriving business community. The GTIB grant award amount is $1.5 million.

Buckhead Community Improvement District

The Buckhead Community Improvement District Project has three phases in which the final phase will enhance a portion of Peachtree Road from Maple Drive to Shadowlawn including access management, median with dedicated turn lanes, street-scaping, ADA improvements, signal upgrade, street lighting and furniture and innovative bicycle facilities. The project will address through traffic and local circulation, improve efficiency and address safety related to left-turns, multi-modal traffic, pedestrian movement and high density development. The GTIB grant award amount is $1.75 million.

Evermore Community Improvement District

The Evermore Community Improvement District Project will construct a two-lane road that will run parallel to Highway 78 for a distance of one mile from Hewatt Road to Britt Road. The project will include sidewalks and a refuge island to provide for pedestrian safety. As a result, the project is intended to provide an alternate route for commercial truck traffic, reduce the number of turning conflicts on Hwy 78, re-direct traffic to signalized locations and retain businesses on the corridor. The GTIB grant award amount is $763,961.

Cumberland Community Improvement District

The Cumberland Community Improvement District Project will enhance the Cumberland Parkway Intersection by reconfiguring turning movements, replacing “strung” traffic signals to mast arms, improving right hand turn movements from Paces Ferry Road onto Cumberland Parkway. These enhancements will also include improving crosswalks, installing countdown signals and reconfiguring ingress and egress into nearby shopping center. The GTIB grant award amount is $445,039.

Additional funding of the projects consists of CID investment funds and two projects will receive GDOT and federal earmarks. For information on GTIB loan and grant procedures including application, guidelines, terms and interest rates are available on the SRTA website www.georgiatolls.com.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Department of Driver Services (DDS) Offers Advice for Replacing a Driver’s License or ID Card Lost or Stolen on Vacation

If you survive your Summer vacation, but your driver’s license does not, the Department of Driver Services (DDS) offers these valuable tips for obtaining a replacement.

Plan Ahead

Make a copy of your driver’s license or make a note of the driver’s license number from the front of your card. Keep the copy in a safe location, so you can access the information quickly if your license is lost or stolen. This may also come in handy in case of natural disaster such as a fire or flood.

Replacement of a Lost License

A replacement license may be ordered from DDS online at www.dds.ga.gov. You will need to provide the license number, your social security number and have an American Express, Discover, Mastercard or Visa credit card. A replacement license will be mailed to you within thirty days.

To obtain a replacement license in person, please bring proof of identity which includes your name as it appears on your driver’s license. All documents presented must be originals or certified copies. No photocopies or faxes can be accepted.

The easiest way to prove your identity is with your birth certificate or passport. If the name printed on your driver’s license does not match that on your birth certificate, you should also plan to bring along your marriage license or whatever court order documents the name change.

If a birth certificate or passport is not available, customers should be prepared to show two items from the list below:

• Original Social Security Card

• Certified Copy of Marriage License

• Previous Year's Income Tax Return

• Current Auto, Home, Life or Health Insurance Policy (Cards Not Accepted)

• Current Auto Registration Receipt

• Voter Registration Card

If you are a victim of theft, please bring a copy of the police incident report with you when you visit a DDS customer service center so that your new driver’s license or ID card can be issued with a new license number.

DDS Hours of Service

All DDS Customer Service Centers statewide are closed on Monday. Tuesday is typically the busiest day statewide. The middle of the week during the middle of the day is the best time to visit DDS. Most centers open earlier to serve you better. A complete list of locations, services and hours can be accessed at http://www.dds.ga.gov/locations/LocationList.aspx.

Driving in Another State

A valid Georgia driver’s license is acceptable proof to drive while visiting another state. However, drivers must obey all traffic laws and procedures which may be different from Georgia’s.

Receiving a ticket from another state.

A ticket issued in another state will be sent to Georgia DDS and will affect your driving record just the same as if you had received the ticket in your home state. Citations from other states typically appear on your Georgia driving record within 60-90 days after your court date.

Be diligent in following up after a citation. Failing to respond or appear in court on a ticket issued in another state can result in the suspension of your Georgia driver’s license. DDS attempts to notify all customers prior to a license suspension or revocation. However, many notices are returned to DDS undeliverable. To verify that your license is valid, you may call (678) 413-8400.

DDS also recommends purchasing your driving history or motor vehicle report (MVR) at least once a year to see if the DDS shows tickets that were not issued to you just as you would review your credit report for fraudulent activity. An MVR can be accessed online, or you may obtain a certified copy by visiting in person.

Please visit the DDS website at www.dds.ga.gov for complete driver’s licensing and testing information.
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Idlying buses bad for air, kids

The sign in front of Fulton Science Academy Middle School is clear: “No Idling. Little lungs at work.”
As cars line up to drop children off at the Alpharetta, Ga., school, the rule is strictly enforced. Monitors walk along the carpool line and tap on windows to remind drivers to turn off their engines.

Dispelling the myth

“You can sit and idle in a carpool line for 30 minutes,” said Sharon Gibson, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension specialist and director of the Children, Youth and Families at Risk – Sustainable Communities Project. “There is a myth out there that it’s cheaper to keep your car running and it’s better for your car. It’s a total myth.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, idling uses more gas than turning your engine off and restarting it. “Idling your car for 30 minutes in a carpool line causes more wear-and-tear on your engine that driving the same amount of time at low speed,” Gibson said.

Saves money and the environment

There are even bigger savings when it comes to school buses. The EPA warns that idling buses increase air pollution, cause wear-and-tear in bus engines and waste gas and money.

“A line of idling school buses doesn’t just pollute the air around the buses,” said Pamela Turner, a UGA Extension housing specialist. “They also pollute the air in the bus and can emit particulates that can enter the school, reducing the air quality inside, too.”

Asthmatic children suffer most

According to Gibson and Turner, pollution from idling buses is particularly problematic for children with chronic respiratory problems like asthma.

“Diesel exhaust has particulate matter that can cause health risks,” Turner said. “Thousands of them can fit on the period at the end of this sentence. They easily pass through the nose and cause real problems for children.”

Most at risk, they said, are those who have existing heart, lung or respiratory problems. The particulates are most dangerous to children and the elderly.

Polluted air drifts into schools

“And, where do we idle?” Gibson asked. “In front of schools.”

The particles can even contribute to creating more haze. “Idling buses aren’t just a health risk, they’re an environmental risk and can cause long-term damage,” she said.

Schools can take simple steps to reduce risks and save money.

“Today’s bus engines don’t need to be warmed up for long periods of time,” Turner said. “They should be warmed for less than five minutes.”

Idling wastes fuel

According to an idling calculator on the EPA website, reducing idling to just 10 minutes a year saves 300 gallons of gas. Turner estimates reducing the warm-up time for just 20 buses will save more than $1,200 per year.

Changing policies isn’t easy, Gibson said. But, she offers these suggestions to get the discussion going at local schools.

Look at the EPA’s National Idle-Reduction Campaign website and learn the facts. “Once people know the facts, they can start a movement in the community or the school’s parent organizations to show the risks and benefits if the practices are changed,” she said.

Take the 'walking bus'

Start a “walking school bus” in your neighborhood. “If your neighborhood has adequate sidewalks to the school, a walking school bus is an excellent idea,” Gibson said.

The idea is to arrange a group of parents who walk to school and pick children up along the route. “The kids are escorted to school safely by adults,” she said. “They benefit from the exercise, no fuel is used and no emissions are put into the air.”

Gibson also said this concept builds community among parents and children.

Some parents say they choose carpooling over buses because they are concerned about bus safety or enjoy the extra time with their children. “They get both of those benefits in the walking bus, too,” she said.

Make these changes

American school buses travel more than 4 billion miles a year. While EPA agrees that school buses are the safest way to transport children to and from school, the agency offers these suggestions to school systems to reduce the impact of buses on the environment:

Use cleaner fuels.
Upgrade bus engines to reduce emissions.
Replace older buses with less polluting buses.

“It takes individual, family and community action to change these practices,” Gibson said. “Each person taking baby steps will add up. If every parent waiting in line to pick up their children turns their car off, it helps.”

For more information on EPA’s National Idle-Reduction Campaign, visit their website at http://epa.gov/cleanschoolbus/antiidling.htm .

To calculate the savings from not idling, check out the calculator at www.epa.gov/cleanschoolbus/idle_fuel_calc.htm .


By J Faith Peppers
University of Georgia

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

States Strengthen Seat Belt and Texting Laws

/PRNewswire/ -- GHSA applauds Georgia, Kansas and Vermont for enacting new laws to improve highway safety in their states. Kansas and Georgia strengthened their seat belt and distracted driving laws, while all three states have banned texting for all drivers.

Yesterday (June 3), Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue signed a bill that removed a pickup truck exemption in that state's seat belt law. Now, all Georgians must 'Click It or Ticket.' State estimates indicate at least 100 lives annually will be saved by requiring pickup drivers to be belted. Today (June 4), Governor Perdue also signed a bill banning cell phone use for novice drivers as well a ban on texting for all drivers. Georgia is now the 28th state to ban texting for all drivers.

Earlier this week, Vermont Governor Jim Douglas added his state to the list of those with a texting while driving ban. In only three years since the first statewide texting ban, states have been quickly acting to address this problem. GHSA expects more states to come on board in the near future.

Last week, Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson signed a primary seat belt bill that allows Kansas police to stop drivers who are not buckled up. Prior to this, Kansas law enforcement officers could only issue tickets for failure to wear a seat belt if a driver was stopped for another traffic violation, such as speeding. The new law also requires all vehicle occupants to buckle up, not just those in the front seat. Kansas will get $11 million in federal funding for passing the new law, which becomes effective June 10. Governor Parkinson also recently signed a statewide texting while driving ban.

GHSA Executive Director Barbara Harsha notes, "Georgia, Vermont and Kansas have set a good example for other states by strengthening their highway safety laws. We know that primary seat belt laws are the single most effective thing states can do to save lives on their roads. And texting bans send the message that drivers need to focus on the task at hand--driving."

For a list of all state seat belt laws, visit: www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/seatbelt_laws.html.

Distracted driving laws can be found at: www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html.

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Friday, June 4, 2010

Governor Perdue Signs Transportation Resource Plan

Governor Perdue today (June 2) joined Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston to sign legislation that will result in a comprehensive plan to provide additional resources to invest in Georgia’s transportation network.

“We have worked extremely hard to bring a level of accountability never seen before in our transportation planning process,” said Governor Perdue. “Now, voters in each area of the state will have a chance to approve a plan that meets the needs of their area of the state while also connecting to the state’s transportation network.”

Governor Perdue’s support for new transportation funding follows passage and successful implementation of Senate Bill 200, which transformed the state’s transportation governance system. Governor Perdue also today signed the statewide strategic transportation plan, which is now driving the decision-making process on how and when to make additional investments that deliver results.

“A year ago we passed Senate Bill 200, a meaningful transportation planning component for the entire state,” said House Speaker David Ralston. “The funding bill signed into law today completes the circle and positions our transportation policy well into the future. The bi-partisan, inclusive leadership by members of the General Assembly, Governor Perdue, Lt. Governor Cagle, and others throughout the state who helped craft this landmark legislation shows that our state remains serious about competing for jobs and improving the quality of life for our citizens.”

“Today is a testament to how important the issue of transportation is to our state and how committed we were to working together to agree on a solution that will bring results,” said Lt. Governor Cagle.    “I want to thank Governor Perdue and Speaker Ralston for their commitment and dedication to stay at the table and accomplish this for Georgia.  I especially want to thank Sen. Jeff Mullis for his leadership in the Senate and hard work on this issue.  This bill allows us to tell people and businesses that are looking to move or relocate their company to Georgia that we have a plan to fix transportation and that we are serious about addressing these issues.”

The final version of House Bill 277 creates special tax districts for transportation that mirror the state’s 12 regional planning boundaries.

“These district lines are important because they recognize our state’s regional business centers, and the areas from which those centers draw consumers,” the Governor said. “This approach will mean dollars spent in a region remain in that region, and the projects will benefit the entire region.”

Voters in each region will have the ability to decide on new transportation improvements by voting on a one percent sales tax. The transportation districts will enable a collection of counties to make strategic decisions that will produce growth in their region. The state’s director of transportation planning will work closely with local communities to create a project list for each transportation district. The project list will knit together transportation improvements that connect our cities and regions, making the movement of people and goods faster and more cost-efficient.

The bill calls for a statewide vote to be held, with the voters in each transportation district considering their specific list. If the district votes yes, the additional sales tax collected in their district will be used to fund their list of projects. If the district votes no, the tax will not be levied.

Governor Perdue also thanked members of the General Assembly that have worked hard on transportation over the past two sessions.

“The question has not been whether to invest in transportation, but whether or not we could get a return on transportation investment that the people of Georgia could support,” the Governor said. “Thanks to the hard work of many, we now have a plan in place that meets that goal.”

“We are proud of the leadership shown by the Governor and the General Assembly this year,” said Dave Stockert, President & CEO of Post Properties and chair of the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s transportation policy committee. “The business community is ready to support the transportation referendum in every way possible as we move into the next phase of this process.”

“Investing in Georgia's transportation infrastructure is critical to our long term economic health,” added Phil Jacobs, chair of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s Transportation Committee. “We are pleased that this legislation will allow every region of our state to have a voice in what those investments will be and that it will provide a mechanism to improve upon our state’s many transportation assets.”

Earlier this year, the Governor announced that his FY 2011 budget recommendation included $300 million in bond projects for transportation. These projects are aligned with the statewide strategic plan and focus on projects of statewide significance. The General Assembly included $200 million in transportation bond projects in the final FY 2011 budget. This bond funding will allow Georgia to strategically target investment to fuel Georgia’s job growth and to position the state as a national leader in economic recovery.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

First Rollover Tests of Midsize SUVs: 5 of 12 Models Earn Marginal Ratings

/PRNewswire/ -- New test results show that some automakers are doing a good job of designing vehicle roofs that perform much better than current federal rollover standards require. The roofs on other vehicles need improvement. In the first Insurance Institute for Highway Safety roof strength tests of midsize SUVs, 6 earn the top rating of good for rollover protection, 1 is acceptable, and 5 others earn the second lowest rating of marginal.

Midsize SUVs earning good ratings are the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox (twin GMC Terrain) built after March 2010, Jeep Liberty (twin Dodge Nitro), Toyota Highlander and Venza, plus the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Kia Sorento, both 2011 models. The 2010 Ford Edge is rated acceptable. The worst performers, which earn marginal ratings, are the Honda Accord Crosstour, Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-7, Mitsubishi Endeavor, and Nissan Murano, all 2010 models.

In addition to earning good ratings for rollover protection, the Equinox, Grand Cherokee, Highlander, Sorento, and Venza also earn the Institute's TOP SAFETY PICK award. To achieve this, a vehicle has to earn good ratings for occupant protection in front, side, rear, and rollover crashes. It also has to have electronic stability control.

The rollover rating system is based on Institute research showing that occupants in vehicles that roll benefit from stronger roofs. Vehicles rated good must have roofs that are more than twice as strong as the minimum required under the current federal safety standard. The ratings, products of the Institute's roof strength testing program, add to consumer information tests that rate vehicles' front, side, and rear crashworthiness. The rollover test is designed to help consumers pick vehicles that will protect them the best in one of the most serious kinds of crashes.

"Midsize SUVs are a big group so we're testing them in stages," says Institute president Adrian Lund. "First results show that automakers are making progress in rollover protection, but it's disappointing that a new design like the Crosstour didn't perform better."

Top performance in the roof test is important because nearly 10,000 people a year are killed in rollover crashes. When vehicles roll, their roofs hit the ground, deform, and crush. Stronger roofs crush less, reducing injury risk from contact with the roof itself. Stronger roofs also can prevent people, especially those who aren't using safety belts, from being ejected through windows, windshields, or doors that have broken or opened because the roof deformed. Roofs that don't collapse help keep people inside vehicles when they roll.

The best occupant protection is to keep vehicles from rolling in the first place. Electronic stability control is significantly reducing rollovers, especially fatal single-vehicle ones.

When vehicles roll, side curtain airbags help protect people. Safety belt use is essential.

In the Institute's roof strength test, a metal plate is pushed against 1 corner of a roof at a constant speed. To earn a good rating, a roof must withstand a force of 4 times the vehicle's weight before reaching 5 inches of crush. For an acceptable rating, the minimum strength-to-weight ratio that's required is 3.25. A marginal rating value is 2.5, and anything lower than that is poor. The Grand Cherokee, Highlander, Liberty, and Venza, for example, withstood forces of nearly 5 times their weights. This compares with 2.8 times weight for the Crosstour and about 3 times weight for the Endeavor and Pilot. A strength-to- weight ratio of 4 reflects an estimated 50 percent reduction in serious or fatal injury risk in single-vehicle rollover crashes, compared with the current federal standard of 1.5.

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