Originally created 06/28/01

Authority backs Amtrak bid



The city of Augusta has gained another ally in its effort to attract Amtrak's trains.

During the group's monthly meeting Wednesday, the Georgia Rail Passenger Authority adopted a resolution acknowledging Augusta's desire to push for the re-routing of Amtrak's Silver Star train through Augusta to Savannah.

"The Authority, hereby officially encourages Augusta-Richmond County to continue its efforts to bring passenger rail service to Augusta," the resolution stated.

This means that the group simply backs the city's project.

"What Augusta is asking for is both assistance and some direction as to the p's and q's to try to move Augusta up on the calendar of events as it deals with passenger rail service," said Arthur Vaughn, the authority's executive director.

Augusta officials pushing for Amtrak service can tap into the authority's information resources and technical guidance, but financial help to conduct studies has not yet been offered.

"At this point, that's not the thrust of the resolution, although there'll probably be some sort of request (in the future)," said the board's local representative, Tim McFalls. "We would be the persons to come and ask for that."

The authority works with the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority to study and improve the state's use of its rail lines.

Recently, some members of the rail authority joined four Amtrak officials who toured Augusta to examine the city's railroad infrastructure and possible sites for a terminal.

After that meeting, Amtrak officials advised the city to consider first looking at bus service from Augusta to an existing train station in Atlanta or Columbia.

Authority members who did not attend the tour with Amtrak on June 6 also looked at the potential sites in the downtown area.

Mr. McFalls invited the board to hold its monthly meeting in Augusta so local officials could update the authority on work that the city has undertaken toward getting Amtrak service.

"We're very excited for what's going on here," said the authority's vice chairman, W.M. Stapleton Jr. "We look forward to working with Augusta."

Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 823-3227.