Three public meetings – the first of which is tonight in Suwanee, Ga. – are planned before the U.S. Department of Transportation narrows six possible routes it identified for a high-speed rail corridor linking Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C.
Augusta residents wanting to give their input will have to travel. The closest meeting is about 120 miles away in Greer, S.C., on Wednesday. The final meeting is in Charlotte on Thursday.
The meetings are part of a required environmental study that will help determine the feasibility of the high-speed rail line and its potential effects on the area.
Originally, the Atlanta-to-Charlotte Passenger Rail Corridor Investment
Plan identified the study area as a corridor in northeast Georgia and the South Carolina Upstate that encompassed Interstate 85 and an existing Norfolk Southern railroad.
As the study progressed, alternative routes were added, with two through Augusta and Columbia the southernmost route, according to Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jill Goldberg.
State transportation board member Don Grantham, who represents the Augusta area, said he will lobby for the train to pass through Augusta, though he has doubts the rail line will come to fruition.
“With funding and the amount of money available right now, that’s something that’s going to be on the back burner,” he said.
Improving the road system is a greater need, said Grantham, who has not studied the rail proposal.
The Atlanta-to-Charlotte rail study costs $4.8 million, with 80 percent funded by the Federal Railroad Administration and the rest covered by the Georgia DOT.
The corridor is part of the rail agency’s initiative to build a nationwide high-speed rail network. A route from Washington, D.C., to Charlotte is being developed.
Goldberg said high-speed rail is a safe and energy-efficient method for improving regional connectivity, reducing travel time between cities and promoting economic development.