RINGGOLD, Ga. - A high-speed rail corridor through Northwest Georgia is still years - maybe decades - away, but that doesn't stop local leaders from jockeying to have stations in their communities.
Cities such as Dalton and Cartersville want to be on board as routes are determined and the lines are planned.
"Now is the time to plant that seed," said Whitfield County Commission Chairman Mike Babb.
Leaders in Tennessee and Georgia have talked for years about a rail line running from Atlanta to Chattanooga and eventually to Nashville and Louisville, Ky., or Knoxville and Charlotte, N.C. Most, including Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, who has led the charge for the line, expect the Northwest Georgia portion of it to run along the Interstate 75 corridor. That is, if a line is even built.
A station could mean tourism, a boost to nearby businesses and population growth, according to Cartersville Mayor Matt Santini. He feels that Cartersville, on I-75 about halfway between Atlanta and Chattanooga, is a logical stop.
"We're positioned pretty strongly," he said. "A stop in Cartersville makes a lot of sense."
A Cartersville station could serve Rome, Canton and northern Cobb and Paulding counties, Santini said.
Babb, Santini and other leaders say rail designers must weigh the line's speed and efficiency against the requests from every community that wants a station.
"Of course, everybody wants a high-speed rail stop, which gets rid of your high speed," Babb said.
Catoosa County Commission Chairman Keith Greene said the routes he has seen have stops in Chattanooga, Dalton, Cartersville and Atlanta.
Greene said he thought the Dalton and Chattanooga stops would adequately serve county residents.
"It just didn't make sense to put a stop in Ringgold," he said.
Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell said her county also could be served with stations in Dalton and Chattanooga.
All the leaders said funding is the biggest hurdle for the track, and Mullis said money may determine where the stops are. So far, Dalton has not honored its pledge of funds for preliminary work.
"If Dalton doesn't want to play, Ringgold or Calhoun will," Mullis said.