Train boosters eye pile of cash that could power planning

Train boosters eye pile of cash that could power planning

October 8th, 2009 by Mike Pare in Business

Bullet train supporters said Tuesday they aim to garner over $21 million to power high-speed train planning on the Atlanta-Chattanooga corridor.

They want to use a recent $13.8 million federal grant, $3.5 million in matching money and $4 million of existing funds for study of a route and the location of train stations, said Joe Ferguson of Chattanooga's Enterprise Center.

Efforts could go "full bore on a site-specific ... study with some good engineering," he said. "That decision probably will be made within the next 30 days."

Mr. Ferguson told the center's board that train advocates will likely seek approval to use the money in that way from the Federal Rail Administration.

He said the matching money to the federal grant will probably come from entities along the corridor. The $4 million in existing money is that unspent from an existing study under way on the train, Mr. Ferguson said.

In addition, the Enterprise Center board approved a $570,000 contract with the Tennessee Department of Transportation for added planning work related to the Chattanooga-Nashville bullet train leg.

Mr. Ferguson said the federal money for that project, which was secured by U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., will provide staff and technical services to support the Atlanta-Nashville project.

Also, the funds will assess public-private partnerships related to the initiative, he said.

Wayne Cropp, the center's chief executive, said that work is expected to take two to three years.

"We hope there will be added funding after that," he said.


Planners want to extend the fast-train route north from Chattanooga to Nashville, Louisville, Indianapolis and Chicago. Southward, the train would run to Atlanta, Macon, Ga., and Savannah, where it would tie into an East Coast line.