Proposal to reroute train tracks ran out of options

Annette M. Drowlette/Staff
Traffic sits blocked at 15th and Broad streets as a train passes. No progress was made on previous plans to reroute tracks.

Railroad crossings in downtown Augusta holding you up?

Officials say it's a delay that's not going away.

A plan pitched about six years ago to have some tracks rerouted in downtown has gone by the wayside, and officials say there seem to be no other viable options at this time.

"We have worked on that for years (and it had been worked on for decades prior to that) and have still made no progress," Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver said via e-mail.

One of the most recent ideas -- pitched by then-state Rep. Jack Connell -- was to reroute some of tracks onto the third level of the Augusta Canal.

"I haven't seen much on it lately," Mr. Connell said last week.

In 2002, Mr. Connell secured $50,000 in the state budget to study moving the tracks, and officials with CSX Corp. said then they were willing to discuss the possibility.

"When you start talking about changing train tracks, that's a major undertaking," said Mr. Connell, whose idea ultimately was dropped.

His plan was to drain the third level of the canal and provide a new bed for the tracks that enter the city at Hawks Gully near 15th Street and cross Walton Way, as well as 15th through Sixth streets.

The tracks would have been rerouted below canal bridges from 15th Street to Sixth Street.

At the time, city leaders worried about the costs and were concerned historic areas of the canal could be damaged.

"Cost is definitely an issue and dealing with the railroads is no easy task!" Mr. Copenhaver said via e-mail.

Mr. Connell isn't the first to suggest moving downtown Augusta's train tracks.

According to The Story of Augusta , written by historian Ed Cashin, "Pop" Newman won his first mayoral term in 1972 mostly on a promise to get rid of many of the rail crossings in downtown Augusta.