published Friday, May 21st, 2010

Georgia seeks millions to plan railroad work

ATLANTA -- The Georgia Department of Transportation board has decided to seek more than $16 million from the Federal Railroad Administration to plan rail projects, including a passenger line that would loop around the eastern half of the state.

A committee of the board recommended asking for federal grant money on Wednesday, and the full board approved making the request Thursday.

The DOT will seek $4.5 million to plan a rail loop through Atlanta, Athens, Augusta, Savannah and Macon. It also will ask for $7 million to plan an Atlanta-Charlotte line, $3 million for an Atlanta-Macon line, and $2 million to update the state's rail plan.

In a news release, board Chairman Bill Kuhlke Jr. said the grants will help pay for environmental impact statements for rail corridors that will improve connectivity for several key economic centers.

"By completing these plans now, Georgia will be well positioned to take advantage of federal funds for design, right of way or even construction," he said.

In September, the Federal Railroad Administration in September awarded $13.8 million for a high-speed rail study along a corridor between Atlanta and Chattanooga.

GDOT spokesman Eric Steavens said in March that an $8 million environmental study of the corridor should be complete by the coming fall.

If communities along the way come forward with $3.5 million in matching funds, the federal grant can be used to study maglev technology.

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