Originally created 02/04/03

Funding could relocate trains



A railroad relocation plan that some city officials have estimated will cost between $30 million and $80 million could be in line for several million dollars of new federal transportation funding.

In an expedited Augusta Commission action Monday afternoon, elected officials voted to move forward with a federal grant application, which would be used toward a railroad relocation effort for several downtown tracks.

"We're going after a new source of money," said Commissioner Steve Shepard, who has spearheaded efforts to relocate the downtown tracks - specifically those that run along Sixth Street and next to the Medical College of Georgia complex on R.A. Dent Boulevard. "We don't want to sit by and let it go."

Every five years, the federal government appropriates millions of dollars for a national transportation plan, Mr. Shepard said.

The last five-year cycle - the transportation equity act for the 21st century - provided funding for the Augusta State University History Walk.

U.S. Rep. Max Burns has asked that Augusta submit its railroad relocation plan to be considered as part of the next five-year funding cycle. Local officials said Mr. Burns has promised to champion the local grant submission before Congress.

"The intruding freight trains - some of which are two miles long by the railroad's own admission - not only choke automobile traffic, they are strangling progressive business and residential development downtown," Mayor Bob Young said. "Future generations are counting on us to act responsibly on this issue."

Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215 or heidi.williams@augustachronicle.com.