published Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Atlanta finally on board plan for high-speed rail to Chattanooga

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    Phyllis Stephens asks a question about a map of a proposed high speed rail line in this 2010 file photo.
    Photo by Andy Johns /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

For the first time since the idea started gaining steam over a decade ago, Atlanta is committing funds for a study related to the proposed bullet train between Chattanooga and Georgia's capital, an official says.

"They're finally having some vision," said Joe Ferguson, who oversees the high-speed rail project for Chattanooga's Enterprise Center, about $250,000 Atlanta is chipping into the study.

When the bullet train idea started to leave the station in 1998, Jon Kinsey was mayor of Chattanooga, Newt Gingrich was speaker of the U.S. House and Bill Clinton was president.

But up to now, Atlanta had not provided funding for studying the project while Chattanooga has pledged at least $1.7 million, figures show.

Tom Weyandt, senior policy adviser for transportation in Atlanta, said this week that city officials are eager to find passenger rail connections, not only to Chattanooga but also to other corridors around the Southeast, including some to the south.

"It's in our long-range interest to try to keep these projects moving," Weyandt said.

The Atlanta money will help match about $13 million in federal funds and speed up the environmental assessment of a high-speed train between the cities.

In addition to the Atlanta funds and $1.3 million from Chattanooga, the Georgia Department of Transportation is providing $1.5 million.

David Spear, a GDOT spokesman, said he hoped that a final environmental impact statement "record of decision" would be issued in 2012.

"Then it would be, like so many pending proposals and projects, a matter of priorities and funding -- primarily at the federal level," he said.

Ferguson said Tuesday that Georgia is on board with the project. He said it's fairly recent that certain leadership in the Atlanta area has come to recognize the city's role as a potential high-speed rail hub.

"Planners and leadership see high-speed or conventional passenger rail could be something Atlanta can be a key player for," Ferguson said.

Asked if he had heard that Delta Air Lines had encouraged Atlanta to drag its feet relating to high-speed rail in the past, Ferguson said he had never heard conversations about that.

Also asked if the issue of a potential water deal permitting Georgia to access the Tennessee River was in play, the longtime rapid-raid advocate said he had never heard current Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed or his key staff people raise that idea.

"That's never been mentioned to me," Ferguson said.

Business editor Dave Flessner contributed to this story.

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about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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328Kwebsite said...

We need to specifically prohibit any and every method Georgia could use to suck water out of Tennessee through this deal. Water theft has been a leading motive for railroad proposals from them in the past.

September 28, 2011 at 2:09 a.m.
senyahc said...

we should just abdicate from the state of tennessee, become part of georgia, and then they can pay for the whole thing! We really already are more Georgia friendly than Nastyville.

September 28, 2011 at 6:43 a.m.
rolando said...

Another useless "Bridge To Nowhere" and a bottomless hole to drop money into. Check the money trail.

September 28, 2011 at 7:06 a.m.
jaye said...

We should have been investing in the train long ago. Better late than never.

September 28, 2011 at 5:28 p.m.

Miss Hoover: I hear those things are awfully loud. Lyle Lanley: It glides as softly as a cloud. Apu: Is there a chance the track could bend? Lyle Lanley: Not on your life, my Hindu friend. Barney: What about us brain-dead slobs? Lyle Lanley: You'll all be given cushy jobs. Grampa: Were you sent here by the devil? Lyle Lanley: No, good sir, I'm on the level. Chief Wiggum: The ring came off my pudding can. Lyle Lanley: Take my pen knife, my good man. I swear it's Springfield's only choice... Throw up your hands and raise your voice! All: Monorail! Lyle Lanley: What's it called? All: Monorail! Lyle Lanley: Once again... All: Monorail! Marge: But Main Street's still all cracked and broken! Bart: Sorry, Mom, the mob has spoken. All: Monorail! Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!

September 28, 2011 at 9:54 p.m.
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