President Barack Obama’s plans for a national high-speed rail network is bittersweet for Georgia.Who are these un-named “transportation advocates”? Sounds like they’re “paving is progress” advocates.
The state is now eligible to win millions of dollars in federal funds for high-speed rail projects.
But transportation advocates say Georgia is so far behind neighboring states that the best it can hope for is money to fund more studies.
The department says it is changing. It has recently hired Erik Steavens to oversee rail projects, and he said he will push for a rail line linking Atlanta to Chattanooga.Changing from thinking paving to thinking small. That’s change that will miss a great opportunity. Actually even worse than thinking small:
The only other rail project, with guaranteed cash available, is a line from Atlanta to Chattanooga that was part of a 2000 bill from the state legislature, HB 1348. In fact, the bill, which was passed when the Democrats last controlled the State House, contains plans for several lines around the state, but only the Atlanta-Chattanooga high-speed track is specifically guaranteed funding “should federal or private funds be made available for such high speed rail.”Up until the 1950s Georgia had a rail system that connected almost every town in the state. The rails from Atlanta through Macon and Valdosta to JAX are still there, and in use constantly for freight. Sure, Valdosta would have to build a station, but those are not complicated. And somebody would have to convince CSX to share the rails. But JAX already did that for commuter rail, so it’s possible. 5 million people in Atlanta, 3/4 million in Jacksonville, and Valdosta halfway in between….
Unfortunately for Georgia legislators, though, President Obama’s rail plans do not include a line between the two southern cities, meaning that if the state still wants to build that line, it needs to come up with the money itself.
If the same entities that repeatedly banded together to keep Moody Air Force Base (VLD, Lowndes County, VSU, state and national reps and senators, etc.) lobbied DoT (state and federal), they could do this thing. They could even use the rail line to Barretts to run commuter rail to Moody while they’re at it. Here’s a chance for Valdosta and Lowndes County to lead the state in making real progress.