published Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Magee: Funding high-speed-rail study shouldn't be an issue

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Audio clip

David Magee

I have plenty of sympathy for cash-strapped counties in these difficult budgetary times.

But I'm also getting a little tired of short-term government problems excusing the type of long-term valuable planning and investment that can be the solution to economic woes.

Specifically, I'm talking about the North Georgia counties that suddenly say they can't or won't pay their parts for matching-grant funding needed to get the proposed high-speed maglev rail line built from Chattanooga to Atlanta.

Finally, the region is at the cusp of seeing this ambitious dream done, and we can't have it delayed because of a lack of promised regional funding required to begin the federal government's environmental impact study of the route -- arguably the most important step to date.

If the study is not complete when money designated in federal transportation plans becomes available, the work could move from the front of the funding line.

Because the train will benefit counties along the route, Gordon, Whitfield and others apparently committed funding through nods from officials that weren't official actions. That means these counties really promised nothing, since governments technically speak only through in-meeting voting. Most of us also understand, though, that when leaders talk about such critical, large-scale projects, conveyance of intent is as meaningful on the get-it-done front as an official vote.

So the pertinent parties said, "Hey, yes, let's get this done." But now Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield and others involved are having to push and plead with a sense of urgency, since Whitfield and Gordon counties are backing off their pledges and citing the obvious -- a lack of money.

Here's the rub, though. Tight economic conditions strongly suggest funding the rail impact study is more important than ever. Today's problems won't be tomorrow's if the region bands together and brings to fruition the most significant piece of infrastructure development possible for the future.

Nothing else -- and I mean nothing -- can have such an immediate and long-lasting economic effect on the Interstate 75 corridor running from Atlanta to Chattanooga as a high-speed rail line.

So when counties along the line that made promises began to waver, I began to question their long-term problem-solving vision.

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whatsthefuss said...

With China having the only commercial maglev train in service I find it hard to believe that Mr. Magee can make such assurances as to the economic impact vs cost and upkeep of the project. With one never constructed in the U.S. the cost estimate is just that. It is rare to see such a project delivered on time and within cost projections. Perhaps China will lend us some of their low cost labor to build the project. Will it bring with it the economic MAGIC WAND he so desperatly seeks??? Will it simply be a commuter train for airline passengers bringing hundreds more commercial airliners over our homes every day??? Will we become a long distance bedroom community for Atlanta workers??? Will the feds have the money to fund it??? GDOT still has not committed to maglev last time I checked. I don't see the benefit for North Georgia communities. I like visiting Atlanta and Chattanooga but I want to live in a rural area that is quiet and safe. Thats why I live where I live. So you see Mr. Magee, there is really no problem to solve.

April 27, 2010 at 8:15 a.m.
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