High-speed rail plans bypass Augusta

 

No one will be buying tickets anytime soon, but a study has found that a long-term plan to connect high speed passenger rail lines from Atlanta to Jacksonville is economically feasible.

The study, presented to the Georgia State Transportation Board last month by consultant HNTB, recommended building a high speed rail line from Atlanta to Savannah, and then to Jacksonville. Stations along the route could include Brunswick, Griffin and Macon.

This was one of three routes that GDOT is looking into. The others are Atlanta to Birmingham, and Atlanta to Louisville going through Chattanooga and Nashville.

Augusta was not included in any of the plans.

“Right now we’re looking at which of these three options we can move forward with first,” Georgia DOT spokeswoman Jill Goldberg said. “We’ll be looking for partners who want to work with us.”

Those partners are likely to be private companies, Goldberg said.

Construction of the Atlanta to Jacksonville line would cost between $5 billion and $16 billion. The cost will depend on what type of track is chosen. Sharing existing tracks with someone like CSX or Norfolk Southern would be cheaper than building a new track, but the speeds would likely not be as fast as with a line that was built specifically for high speed rail.

Fares between Atlanta and Jacksonville would range between about $120 and $150.

President Barack Obama pushed high speed rail when he came into office. But Florida Gov. Rick Scott refused federal money to build a high speed rail line from Orlando to Tampa.

The issue is now a partisan battle between Republicans, who oppose high speed rail, and Democrats, who argue for it.

 

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