published Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Rail line draws support, questions

by Andy Johns

Recently released public comments from high-speed rail meetings in November overwhelmingly support a line connecting Chattanooga to Atlanta, but the handful against the line bring up some important concerns.

Late last year, area residents were asked to give their opinions online and at meetings in Chattanooga, Dalton, Cartersville and the Atlanta suburbs.

The Georgia, Tennessee and U.S. Departments of Transportation have said they will use the comments as part of their ongoing evaluation phase in the line’s development.

Of the 112 comments collected, 92 were in favor of the proposed lines, 14 were conditionally supportive, three were uncommitted and three were against.

“Hope it’s done while I’m still young enough to ride it,” wrote John Horton, of Chattanooga, according to a report of compiled comments provided by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Most of the comments echo Horton’s sentiments and mention convenience, shorter commutes, less highway congestion and fuel savings.

“It’s been desperately needed for a long time,” J.M. Prince, of Dalton, Ga., told a court reporter who transcribed comments at one of the meetings.

Respondents in towns along the proposed line stated they would like the ability to get to the cities on both ends of the line, particularly the airports.

On the Atlanta end, some responders hoped the rail might ease the gridlock for which the city has become notorious.

“GDOT needs more projects like this,” wrote Wyatt Kendall, of Atlanta. “We don’t need to expand another highway in the Atlanta region.”

But others raised questions about funding, noise and how the line might affect the property around it.

“Will it create meaningful jobs for Northwest Georgia and Chattanooga?” asked Chattanooga resident Greg Walton in his comment.

Commenters along the proposed routes, which primarily run in the median or to the immediate right or left of Interstate 75, are especially concerned about right of way.

“If you come over on the east side [of I-75], they’ll wipe out my farm,” Dalton resident Altoona Holland told the court reporter. “I’m trying to hold onto it for my kids ... I want to give them a place to live.”

James McClain, who owns a retirement home in Cartersville, Ga., said noisy trains and “transient strangers” would turn his community into a “nightmare.”

“Have you ever seen a train station neighborhood that didn’t have graffiti and riff-raff hanging out all hours?” he e-mailed to the GDOT. “Stop the madness! You are ruining Cartersville, Georgia, and you are making the retirement home that I’ve worked so hard for worthless!”

about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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