Since 2007 the Georgia and Tennessee Departments of Transportation have been studying the possibility of a high speed rail line connecting Atlanta with Chattanooga. Such a connection would be a huge step forward in regional mobility and accessibility and would have an enormous economic impact on Northwest Georgia between the two cities.
One of the first major milestones in such a project is the publication of the Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Tier 1 DEIS), released by the GDOT in conjunction with its Tennessee counterpart as well as the Federal Railroad Administration.
The Tier 1 DEIS proposes three potential railroad paths; one following alongside I-75, another that swings further East to hit a Dalton-Chatsworth station, and a third that swings West to connect with Rome before reconnecting with the I-75 corridor. Each line would feature either steel-wheeled or magnetic levitation train cars which can travel upwards of 180 mph, making the total journey in less than an hour and a half.
In addition to increasing passenger mobility, (obviously the main goal) and decreasing traffic, high speed rail would also alleviate mobile emissions, a big deal to the EPA. More on why that’s important in a minute.
A series of three meetings have been planned to discuss the project and the proposed routes – one in Chattanooga, another in Dalton, and a third in Atlanta. The locations and dates for those can be found below.
Meeting 1 Tuesday, November 15 6PM to 8PM GDOT General Office One Georgia Center – RM 403 and 404 600 West Peachtree Street, NW Atlanta, GA 30308
Meeting 2 Wednesday, November 16 6PM to 8PM Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency Development Resource Center 1250 Market Street #2000 – Conference RM 1A-50 Chattanooga, TN 37402
Meeting 3 Thursday, November 17 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM City of Dalton City Hall and Administration Building – Auditorium 300 W. Waugh Street Dalton, GA 30720
Following those meetings the GDOT and TDOT will choose a ‘Preferred Corridor Alternative’, (aka favorite route). If the FRA approves, the project can be sent on for Tier 2 evaluation, which would get down to the nitty gritty details of where the stations would be, which type of train to use, and who would manage the railway.
The kicker though is that further studies and at some point actual construction will need funding, and lots of it. Transportation funding, particularly for a project of this magnitude, comes from a variety of sources. Local, county, state, and federal, (keep that EPA happy) funds would all have to come into use. That’s a lot of people to get on board even before a highly competitive bid to secure federal funds when across the country cities are getting this same notion – that connecting to one another via high speed rail has the possibility to create regional economic powerhouses.
So don’t expect trains to start running along I-75 anytime soon, but do be aware that the push for public transportation doesn’t end inside the perimeter of Atlanta.