The speedometer on a Volkswagen stops well short of 300 mph, but Georgia state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, hopes the $1 billion assembly plant coming to Chattanooga boosts the prospect for a train that can hit that speed.
“Chattanooga is a tourism destination for Atlanta,” Sen. Mullis told a luncheon audience at the Chattanooga Pachyderm Club on Monday. “If a maglev (magnetic levitation) train was connected here to the Chattanooga airport, it would improve that situation a lot.”
The high-speed rail line has been pitched for years as a way to relieve crowding at Atlanta’s airport and get more use from Chattanooga’s airport, by linking the two with a fast commuter train.
The announcement this month that German automaker Volkswagen will get back into car manufacturing in the United States with an assembly plant at Chattanooga’s Enterprise South gives added reason to build a mag-lev line between Chattanooga and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Sen. Mullis said.
He congratulated Chattanooga officials on VW’s selection of the Scenic City over the other finalist — Huntsville, Ala. — and said it gives added leverage to justify high-speed rail service.
“We hope you are very successful,” Sen. Mullis said. “We will work to support Chattanooga. It couldn’t come at a better time.”
He said Georgia is committed to helping Tennessee provide work force and sites for parts suppliers and other support businesses that will surely follow the plant.
Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said Northwest Georgia is well situated to help Chattanooga meet VW’s needs in getting cars off the assembly line by 2011.
“There are industrial sites in Georgia,” Mr. Littlefield said.
As for Georgia workers at the VW plant, he said, “The higher education institutions are already talking about training programs.”
Mr. Littlefield said the VW plant should improve opportunities like landing the high-speed train between Atlanta and Chattanooga.
An $8 million feasibility study is under way, with funding from Georgia, the federal government and private businesses, and should be completed next year, Sen. Mullis said.
Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and some other top officials in the past were not proponents of the maglev.
But, “There has been some movement on Georgia’s part,” Mayor Littlefield said. “(The VW plant) should increase our weight, regionally.”