published Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Mayor says it's time for counties to meet maglev obligations


by Cliff Hightower
Audio clip

Mike Babb

Mayor Ron Littlefield said Friday the time has come for Georgia counties that pledged money on a high-speed rail corridor to pony up -- and fast.

"We've got to the come-up-with-the-money stage," Mr. Littlefield said.

Almost a year and a half ago, officials in several counties along Interstate 75 committed to contribute almost $3.9 million as a match for a $13.8 million federal transportation grant. The grant is to be used to pay for an environmental study on proposed routes of the high-speed rail, or maglev, from the Atlanta airport to the Chattanooga airport.

However, several counties have not paid the money, and the likelihood of doing so this year is not high, said Alvin Long, chairman of Gordon County's Board of Commissioners.

"I would love to see the maglev train, but that's not the question," he said. "The question is, 'How do I afford it?'"

In today's economy, it is hard for counties to come up with the money, said Mike Babb, chairman of the Whitfield County Commission.

Whitfield County pledged $349,000.

"It's going to be hard to meet what was promised two years ago," Mr. Babb said. "I don't believe at this time we have the $300,000."

BY THE NUMBERS

* $13.8 million: Total federal grant for high-speed rail environmental study

* $3.9 million: Total local match requested from local governments

* $1.3 million: Separate amounts requested from Atlanta, Georgia and Tennessee

Source: Georgia Department of Transportation

STORY SO FAR

The Georgia Department of Transportation is in the midst of an environmental impact study on a proposed high-speed rail, or maglev, corridor from Atlanta to Chattanooga. To complete the study by the end of the year, officials want to raise about $3.9 million in matching funds. Several counties pledged last year to pitch in but now say they cannot pay. The maglev missed out on $1 billion in federal funding divvied out just a few months ago for high-speed rail projects, officials said.

Steve Bradley, Bartow County, Ga., administrator, said there have been reports that his county promised money for the rail study, but that's not true.

"We have never pledged any funds, and we're not planning to provide any funds," Mr. Bradley said.

A group of elected and transportation officials met Friday morning at Chattanooga City Hall to discuss how they can get funding from all the entities that pledged money.

There were no easy answers.

The money is needed to help complete the study so the maglev plan could be in contention for $2.5 billion that the federal government plans to spend on high-speed rail next spring.

"There's a huge sense of urgency," Mr. Ferguson said.

Mr. Littlefield said the study was on the edge of a "tremendous opportunity for a significant grant." He said he would not let the opportunity "slip away" as long as "he could help it."

He said his strategy for getting the counties to meet their financial obligations is simple.

"You ask them to ante up," he said. "Time is of the essence."

Click here to vote in our daily poll: Should a Chattanooga Atlanta maglev train be funded?

Continue reading by following this link to a related story:

Article: Maglev money still MIA

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whatsthefuss said...

I wonder how long the mayor can hold his breath???

April 25, 2010 at 8:13 a.m.
spendwisely said...

It's hard to imagine that there would be enough riders to pay the tremendous costs of the maglev train. Just because there's federal (tax) money out there doesn't mean we should spend it on a project that's not commercially feasible.

April 25, 2010 at 9:34 a.m.
dave said...

I wonder why the counties in Georgia would want to pay for this. What good will it be to have a high speed rail if it stops at every Georgia mudpuddle and wide space in the road. If it bypasses them I don't think they will want to pay up. If it doesn't bypass them...then what good is it. It will make Chattanooga real-estate go sky high...as well as your taxes. If Ron Littlefield has his way he will force METRO government on everyone so he will control it all. That is his plan... TAX and SPEND....TAX and SPEND...

I Say TAXED ENOUGH ALREADY! (thats what T.E.A. stands for in case you are a democrat)

April 25, 2010 at 9:48 p.m.
MountainJoe said...

No kidding Dave. What a boondoggle.

In this economy the last thing we can afford is a maglev train that no one can pay the full fare for. The only way it will ever have enough ridership would be if government (we the taxpayers) subsidized the fares.

No thanks. Bury this thing deep. Some projects just aren't worth the cost.

Bury LittleLie too, while you are at it.

April 25, 2010 at 10:26 p.m.
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