Georgians, particularly those in the Atlanta area, may know the area’s transit struggles well. Plenty more would have gripes about the commuting situation in the state amidst its tremendous population growth. Still, the state regularly advertises its infrastructure advantages to businesses considering relocation to the area, and local cities and towns have been pouring money into projects that strengthen the grid. So, which group is correct?
Well, a little of both, at least according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). In the group’s latest infrastructure report rankings, Georgia’s transit systems, wastewater, and dams all received scores of a D+, or even worse. Freight and logistics trains, air travel, and ports, however, all obtain grades of a B- or better. Overall, ASCE grades the state right up the middle: a C+.
That said, the areas where the state falls short are glaring. The ASCE’s comments on transit are just one of many areas that the society highlights for improvement. From the report:
In 2016, 90% of trips in Georgia were made using automobiles, while only 2% were made by transit. In 2016, Atlanta ranked 32nd in the nation in transit access. Meanwhile, Atlanta is the eighth most congested city in the world. More funding and collaboration between systems are needed to continue to maintain existing systems, improve access for all citizens, and make transit a more attractive option.
While other items, like dams, were seen as in poor condition in nearly every state, Georgia’s public transit systems were found to be unusually lacking when compared even to neighboring states. Florida and even Alabama both received better marks in the category than the Peach State. Atlanta congestion and minimal use/availability of public transit in the city appear to have significantly impacted the state’s ranking.
Also of concern was the state’s aging wastewater systems and water treatment facilities, as well as residents’ forced reliance on septic systems rather than public sewage. The study also found that many of the state’s municipalities cannot afford even the outdated systems already in place:
In 2017, the Georgia Water & Wastewater Report found that 45% of the 373 local government water or wastewater agencies in Georgia did not generate enough revenue to cover their operations and maintenance costs and account for future capital costs. Systems need to be properly maintained and expanded for future growth. Nearly half of all Georgians do not have access to public sewers, many relying on septic systems.
That said, the state has been taking targeted action on some of the problem areas identified by ASCE. In 2022, Governor Kemp announced awards of over $400 million specifically for wastewater improvements and modernizing the state’s systems. Those awards were primarily aimed at improving drinking water quality, according to the release.
The focus of late has been primarily on energy and technology, such as funding improvements to allow more high-speed internet access or modernizing older communities. Still, based on the ASCE’s findings, the state may still have a long way to go. Other areas that received poor marks included stormwater and state parks or recreation areas.
Readers who are interested in reading the full ASCE report, including all 50 states’ assessments, can find the full analysis here.