Another group floats idea of expanded Georgia rail system

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ATHENS, Ga. -- When Doc Eldridge was elected mayor of Athens-Clarke County in 1998, he thought the next mayor would be riding a new Athens-to-Atlanta passenger rail line.

His successor’s term is about to end, and Athenians are no closer to being able to hop a train for Atlanta than they were 12 years ago.

A new group of Georgia business and community leaders has formed to convince state officials finally to move forward with a statewide network of passenger trains.

Georgians for Passenger Rail formed “primarily to make a unified push with statewide representation, mainly in the metro (Atlanta) area, to get some legs back under the passenger rail movement,” said Eldridge, a board member and president of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce.

Georgians for Passenger Rail is a successor to the Brain Train group, a consortium founded by developer Emory Morsberger that advocated a line connecting the University of Georgia with Atlanta universities and high-density nodes of development around stops. Morsberger is also a Georgians for Passenger Rail board member.

Business leaders recognize that Atlanta’s car-based sprawl has become unsustainable, said Gordon McKenna, executive director of Georgians for Passenger Rail.

“You get pretty much diminishing returns on your investment pursuing the same strategy,” McKenna said.

Passenger rail lines connecting Georgia cities will provide transportation options, lessen reliance on foreign oil, ease tensions between urban and rural areas and share metro Atlanta’s prosperity with the rest of the state, he said.

The group will focus first on a line connecting Atlanta and Macon that already has federal funding, McKenna said. The Athens-to-Atlanta line would ideally be next after the Macon line is built, he said. Eventually, passenger rail could also connect other cities like Savannah, Columbus and Albany.

The Athens-to-Atlanta line is too short for high-speed rail, but other lines could be funded partially with money in the federal economic stimulus act earmarked for upgrading tracks for high-speed rail, McKenna said. The Obama Administration is planning a line that would run from Boston down the East Coast through Atlanta to Houston. The line would split at Raleigh, N.C., and run through Savannah to Miami, and another spur would connect Atlanta to Savannah.

Georgians for Passenger Rail is funding a study that will update years-old Brain Train estimates on costs and ridership, as well as look at logical stops, data on economic benefits and ideas for how to supplement fares to operate the trains, McKenna said.

The study will be completed in February, but building the Atlanta-to-Macon line might not happen for five to 10 years, he said.

“I think you need a long horizon,” he said.

Eldridge was a little more pessimistic.

“I don’t know if it’ll happen in my lifetime,” he said.

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TrukinRanger
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TrukinRanger 01/25/10 - 12:21 pm
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So, where does Georgia's 2nd
Unpublished

So, where does Georgia's 2nd largest city fit in with this rail plan?

Fish Out of Water
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Fish Out of Water 01/25/10 - 12:59 pm
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Don't hold your breath.

Don't hold your breath.

Chillen
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Chillen 01/25/10 - 01:02 pm
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Good point Trukin. My

Good point Trukin. My thoughts, if these business & community leaders feel so strongly about this rail then they need to lobby private businesses to build it. If it makes sense financially, they will do it, if not then it should be abandoned. We don't need any more government spending sucking the taxpayers dry and running at a loss. The government does not need to take on another fiscally irresponsible project.

LEO
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LEO 01/25/10 - 01:36 pm
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Yes, you'd think that a

Yes, you'd think that a Morris News Service reporter would at least give an obligatory mention of Augusta.

floridasun
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floridasun 01/25/10 - 02:23 pm
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I wonder if anyone on the

I wonder if anyone on the Augusta Commission, the Augusta Planning Department, or anyone in a leadership position, ie the mayor, is pushing to have Augusta included in the rail network. ...or will Augusta be left on the side as the rail network is planned and developed.
I think it is a good idea to redeploy some to the money going to highway development and airport development and shift this to rail.

lemon42
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lemon42 01/25/10 - 04:37 pm
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Cause private businesses are

Cause private businesses are the only organizations that can do things effectively? What does that say about our military?

Riverman1
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Riverman1 01/25/10 - 04:42 pm
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The plans are in and Augusta

The plans are in and Augusta is not on it. We don't get the mountains to the coast interstate highway either. But don't worry with this budget before it's built trains will be obsolete.

jb1234
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jb1234 01/25/10 - 05:58 pm
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Figures, Augusta's never on

Figures, Augusta's never on any sort of national radar. First we had 2 interstates proposed but no money allotted, then the National High Speed rail plan bypasses Augusta, and now even the State Passenger rail plan bypasses Augusta. Mayor Deke, how about doing something for once and lobbying the state legislature to get Augusta on the rail map! And why isn't Amtrak service available in Augusta?! If I want to ride the train, I have to drive out to the boonies to Denmark SC!

Emerydan
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Emerydan 01/25/10 - 06:01 pm
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The problem with getting

The problem with getting trains to Augusta is that this isn't exactly a place people want to go to on a routine basis and it's not really on the way to someplace someone might want to go.

jb1234
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jb1234 01/25/10 - 06:11 pm
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So Emerydan, Denmark SC is a

So Emerydan, Denmark SC is a destination city? That's news to me! It seems like a lot more sense to have an Amtrak route from Columbia, SC to Augusta to Savannah; I'm sure there would be a lot more usage from Augusta than Denmark. And what is Macon hiding that makes it such a wanted destination? I may be mistaken, but doesn't an Atlanta-Athens-Augusta-Savannah rail route sound a lot more practical and profitable than a Macon-Atlanta system? Seems to me that a state-wide passenger rail system would actually have service state-wide, like Florida's system.

Emerydan
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Emerydan 01/25/10 - 06:21 pm
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Denmark just happens to be

Denmark just happens to be along the route for the main east coast rail line. Augusta is not along any high traffic corridor.. it's a tad out of the way.

Emerydan
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Emerydan 01/25/10 - 06:23 pm
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macon is on the route from

macon is on the route from Atlanta to Savannah and also on the way to Florida. Augusta suffers from the same problem as Columbus.

TrukinRanger
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TrukinRanger 01/25/10 - 06:28 pm
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How about Atlanta to Myrtle
Unpublished

How about Atlanta to Myrtle Beach... 1 Large City (Atlanta), 1 Medium City (Colmbia), and the bathroom break in the middle (Augusta)...

TheDeerhunter
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TheDeerhunter 01/25/10 - 06:29 pm
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augusta made a deal with

augusta made a deal with devil during sherman's march; we are now cursed.

corgimom
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corgimom 01/25/10 - 07:42 pm
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There used to be a train;

There used to be a train; then it was stopped because not enough people rode it.

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