ATLANTA — High-speed passenger rail lines are economically feasible between Atlanta and Jacksonville, Fla.; Louisville, Ky.; and Birmingham, Ala., according to a consultant’s study presented Wednesday to the State Transportation Board.
The Jacksonville line should be built in two phases, first to Savannah, and then to the northeast Florida city, recommended the study by HNTB. Possible stations along the route would include Griffin, Macon, Savannah and Brunswick. The feasibility study was the first of many long steps in setting the final course of the train routes.
The three routes were studied after an earlier study showed the feasibility of a route from Atlanta to Charlotte, N.C. That project is now in the stage of estimating the environmental impact of possible paths.
Construction of any of the lines is likely to be many years in the future, but the Obama administration has made high-speed passenger rail a priority and provided funds for exploring routes that could link up into a national network.
Fares between Atlanta and Jacksonville would range between $119.41 and $152.24.
The corridor for high-speed rail the federal government sketched between Atlanta and Jacksonville bypassed Savannah, but the consultants included it to tap more potential riders and to connect to another federal corridor planned along Interstate 95.
Atlanta and Jacksonville are both planning downtown stations where passengers could switch from the high-speed trains to local transit services.
“Positive operating ratios indicate an ability to pay down debt services and bonds and can lead to reduced reliance on public-investment subsidies,” the consultants wrote. “Additionally, operating surpluses on an annual basis may finance a ‘rail maintenance fund,’ requiring less investment in future years for capital maintenance costs.”
They note that such strong potential could entice private investors to underwrite part of the project.