ATLANTA – Georgia drivers will soon see visible evidence of the benefits of a higher gasoline tax, Gov. Nathan Deal told a group of real-estate developers Friday, asking them to defend any legislators facing a political challenge for supporting the increase.

“I think you’re going to be very, very pleased in the not-too-distant future, in the first week of the General Assembly session in January, when you see all of the projects that we are not only going to start but we’re going to be able to finish in record time,” He said. “Much of that is because we have the revenue generated by House Bill 170.”

After his luncheon speech, reporters asked for more details, but he offered few. He did say the money would not all go to roads around Atlanta.

“When we have that press conference, I anticipate having a map of the entire state of Georgia to show all of the projects, both metro and those outside of the metro region that are going to be able to be done with the extra money,” he said.

Projects can be completed faster, according to the governor, without Washington funds because then they aren’t subject to federal regulations.

He didn’t say which regulations, but most transportation industry officials have pointed to environmental protections and minority-contractor requirements as the most cumbersome. However, Democrats got inserted into HB 170 similar minority-contracting provisions to apply to projects funded solely with state money.

The list of projects will convince voters that the gas-tax boost was worthwhile, Deal said, adding that he was personally impressed with its scope when Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry showed him recently.

“I think it’s going to probably be the biggest visible evidence of tax reform and the results of it that we have seen in this state in a very long time,” Deal said.

In his speech to the Council for Quality Growth, the governor praised the organization for its support of the transportation bill. Most of the developers in the 30-year-old council are from the northern suburbs of Atlanta where traffic congestion has become both a political issue and one that experts warn will hamper economic growth.

Deal told the group its job wasn’t finished because next year is an election year.

“For those individuals who are running for reelection and who voted for that bill and face opposition, I hope you will step up and support them for the same kind of tenacity and courage that they displayed as they voted for that piece of legislation,” he said.

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