Originally created 05/07/02

Train alliance pitched



NORTH AUGUSTA - Augusta officials looking to ease downtown train traffic crossed the river Monday night looking for help.

Augusta commissioners asked the North Augusta City Council to support the construction of a new train route along the future extension of the Bobby Jones Expressway.

The route could spell the end to trains using Sixth Street through downtown Augusta. Study of the project is in its early phases, and financing hasn't been secured.

"I did not want to be looking back in a few years saying, 'Why didn't we discuss this?"' Augusta Commissioner Steve Shepard told North Augusta City Council.

"The right of way there is priceless," he added, referring to the extension of Bobby Jones on the Augusta side.

Land for a section of the proposed train track has not been secured on the South Carolina side, said Skip Grkovic, North Augusta's director of economic and community development.

Augusta Commissioner Andy Cheek said state and federal organizations already contributing to the Bobby Jones extension could assist with the new train track. Augusta commissioners also plan to pitch the idea to Aiken County Council.

"If we hesitate, the opportunity will pass us by," Mr. Cheek said.

Bids to build the Bobby Jones extension will be accepted this month and construction will begin in August, Mr. Grkovic said.

"(The Department of Transportation) is not going to slow it down," he said, adding that the plan could be updated as construction begins.

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 279-6895 or josh.gelinas@augustachronicle.com.