ATLANTA -- The last time the Department of Transportation produced the State Rail Plan in 2009, it acknowledged there were more local efforts going on than it could include.
Now the department is preparing an update, and it’s looking for public input.
And various groups are already prepared to offer their vision of what the new plan should include.
“The Augusta Metro Chamber is always looking at ways to keep our area better connected using any available mode of transportation as such links are critical to our continued growth and prosperity,” said Sue Parr, president of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce. “The chamber has engaged with the Georgia Department of Transportation to express our interest in seeing that all possible high-speed rail links are fully evaluated and hope that as these plans develop Augusta can be a part of future growth.”
Some comments will be looking at how rail intersects with other forms of travel.
“What I would like to see in the Georgia DOT’s updated rail plan is a commitment to follow-through, particularly in the areas of safety and infrastructure,” said Joe Severns, marketing director for Grassroots Motorsports. “... In addition, I believe a more aggressive strategy should be employed in expanding passenger and intermodal rail business in South Georgia. Access to ports, major Interstates and raw materials necessitates a stronger connection to the super-regional hub of Atlanta.”
The state’s largest economic sector, farming, also has some ideas, according to Bryan Tolar, president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council.
“With Georgia being a net exporter, especially of farm products, we need to ensure improvements to our rail system include necessary logistics for moving these Georgia-grown goods into the world market,” he said. “A strong, effective infrastructure is key to our national and global competitiveness.”
The Transportation Department is accepting public comments and hosting three public hearings this month in Dalton, Atlanta and Valdosta. A second round of meetings will occur in August, but those dates and places haven’t been announced.