ATLANTA — As anyone who has ventured out on the highways in the last few days has noticed, the coronavirus pandemic has reduced traffic volumes.
Traffic across metro Atlanta during morning rush has been down 20% to 40%, Georgia Commissioner of Transportation Russell McMurry told members of the State Transportation Board Thursday.
“Seeing these traffic volumes off is a good indicator people are heeding the messaging of staying home,” McMurry said during the board’s monthly meeting, which was streamed to most board members online as a safety precaution.
McMurry said the Georgia Department of Transportation is driving home that message to drivers on highways across the metro region with changeable electronic signs warning motorists to stay home if possible, wash their hands frequently and avoid public events.
There is a down side to the reduced traffic. McMurry said the DOT is tracking what is certain to be a hit on revenue the agency takes in from the state’s motor fuels tax, although it’s too early to determine what that impact will be.
“We need to get through this first week to see what the overall traffic volumes are like,” he said.
McMurry said the mid-year budget Gov. Brian Kemp signed this week provides the DOT with sufficient funding through June. However, the outlook for fiscal 2021 beginning in July is less certain, he said.
Meanwhile, McMurry updated board members on the damage to highways wreaked by winter flooding south of Interstate 20. Kemp declared a state of emergency in 120 counties two weeks ago due to flooding.
McMurry said the worst damage to the state’s highway system was from a washout on Georgia 112 in Wilcox County. He said crews will have to rebuild 1,000 feet of highway and replace four 60-inch pipes.
McMurry said at least 50 counties have submitted requests for at least $15 million in assistance, the threshold to qualify for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Four two-person FEMA assessment teams will conduct inspections in 30 counties during the next week, he said.