Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Some intelligent transportation discussion in Georgia

The Athens Banner-Herald has a fine opinion piece about starting rail service between Atlanta and Athens. It includes plenty of background information.

First, as intermodal transportation committee Chairman Larry Walker, a former state legislator, noted after Wednesday’s committee meeting, it’s past time for the DOT to take a look at alternatives to road construction and expansion projects as a means of coping with transportation gridlock in the state.

“… (I)n my opinion, if we don’t do something positive … I think people are going to say it’s the same ol’ DOT, lost in the ’50s, building highways and that’s all they know,” Walker said Wednesday, a day before the full DOT board took his committee’s advice to look into an Athens-Atlanta line, according to a Morris News Service report.

The second political reality recognized by the DOT board in its Thursday decision is that there is a reason to move slowly toward implementing an Athens-Atlanta commuter rail line. Extending a line from Atlanta to Tucker as a first step is a fiscally prudent approach, one that could soften legislative concerns about the estimated $400 million price tag for an Athens-Atlanta line. As Walker pointed out Wednesday, according to an Associated Press report, if an Atlanta-Tucker line isn’t successful, “at least we won’t bankrupt the state.”

Here’s the clincher. The Athens Banner-Herald does something seldom heard of in transportation discussions. It takes an adult reasonable approach. You might even call it fiscally conservative.

It’s not unreasonable to suspect that legislators might find the costs associated with commuter rail at least palatable in comparison with roadwork. Consider, for instance, that the cost of the interchange project at Georgia Highway 316 and Interstate 85 – the prime traffic arteries between Athens and Atlanta – is $147 million, and that millions more would be required to smooth traffic flow along Ga. 316 by building interstate-style interchanges to replace the numerous at-grade crossings along the route. Given those numbers, a $400 million initial outlay for commuter rail becomes somewhat more reasonable.

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Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail

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