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OWENS: Transportation plan not luxury but necessity

  • RTD Board of Director Chuck Sisk, talks with members of CAT during a luncheon Wednesday at the Coastal Georgia Center. (Josh Galemore/Savannah Morning News)

Today, if you leave your house, you’ll take part in a system that began during the Stone Age. In our prehistoric past, we had the advent of roads and transportation.

These roads paved the way for commerce, communication and governance back then — and they’re no less important in modern times.

In and around Savannah, we’re at a junction. One path is to keep the way we move around this city the same, closing our eyes to the growth that is happening to our area. The other is to plan for our future by investing the time and money for a transportation and mobility plan.

Recently, the Chatham Area Transit held a regional planning meeting whereby they gathered the region’s leaders and stakeholders from across the Coastal Empire to start the conversation about how we prepare a transportation and mobility plan.

They brought in a guest speaker from Denver who said, “You can’t stop growth, you can only plan for it.”

That stuck with me, as I see our area grow. The ports have had a record-breaking year. Manufacturing is up more than it has been in the past. Tourism has grown. Industries in the area have been growing, and this is good for our economy — more jobs, more revenue, more taxes that go toward things like transportation.

As these industries grow, so does the tax base. So, we’re now looking at a future where these industries help provide the resources necessary to produce that infrastructure.

That’s why we need both a short and long term plan for our region. It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity.

We all deal with traffic — whether it’s in our neighborhood, on our way to work, around construction or road maintenance. We also want to learn from some of Atlanta’s traffic woes and mistakes.

Maybe you’ve thought of a way to plan for transportation and mobility in our region. That’s great, but ideas without action won’t move us forward.

Someone must take up the torch and run with it. maybe that will be CAT.

No doubt, finding a solution conducive to our entire region is complicated. Good thing there’s a manual published by United States Department of Transportation to help communities like us in the planning process.

The Transportation Planning Process Briefing Book breaks down the steps - where to begin and how to consider such important factors as the environment, non-discrimination issues, fiscal constraint and economic development.

The manual was updated last year and is a simplified guide on how to proceed.

If you want to be a part of the plan for growth that’s already happening, I recommend reading it. Here’s the link: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/publications/briefing_book/fhwahep15048...

While we can get involved in our transportation and mobility plan, it’s also up to us to elect and support the leaders who will make sound decisions and use the revenue wisely. If they choose not to improve infrastructure, don’t blame the industries that provide the revenue, blame the decision-makers who aren’t making the right decisions to invest in our future.

We also need to look at the trends of millennials, the largest, most diverse generation in our country. There are more millennials than boomers now, but fewer of them are driving. So how do we plan for that?

Believe it or not, there are some that think we can forget a transportation and mobility plan and this will control growth. It doesn’t work that way. Growth is already happening.

All of us who are here, and have been here for a long time, will only be left feeling miserable because our routes will become more congested with no relief in sight.

Let’s take a page from our prehistoric predecessors and clear the figurative and literal stones from our path. Let’s make a transportation and mobility plan that will pave the way for the future of our community.

 

Michael Owens is president/CEO of the Tourism Leadership Council, the largest non-profit trade organization that supports and represents the tourism community. Contact Owens at michael@tourismleadershipcouncil.com or by calling 912-232-1223.

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