The Georgia Department of Transportation is considering plans for a high-speed railway that would connect Atlanta and Charlotte, possibly through Athens. The public can provide their input on the railway route until Nov. 4 through a GDOT survey.
According to GDOT’s railway proposal executive summary, three routes are being considered for the railway: Southern Crescent, Interstate 85 and Greenfield. All three routes would connect Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to the Charlotte Gateway Station east of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. But, the Greenfield route is the only one that would run through Athens.
The Greenfield route would stop at five stations in Georgia: Athens, Suwanee, Doraville, downtown Atlanta, and the airport [pg 8]. Athens wasn’t a stop on the original plan for Greenfield. The route was altered to accommodate the increase in ridership that Athens would provide and to benefit UGA, which has a large student population from the Atlanta metropolitan area, according to GDOT’s alternative developments report.
The estimated capital cost of the Greenfield route is between $6.2 and $8.4 billion in 2012 dollars. Greenfield has a projected end-to-end travel time between 2 hours and 6 minutes and 2 hours and 44 minutes, according to the executive summary.
The Atlanta to Charlotte railway would be part of a larger plan to create a network of railways connecting cities in the Southeast known as the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor, according to the executive summary. This railway network would connect cities across the region, including Washington, D.C., Richmond, Virginia, Raleigh, North Carolina, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Atlanta.
The Southern Crescent route would stop at six stations in Georgia: Toccoa, Gainesville, Suwanee, Doraville, downtown Atlanta, and the airport. Southern Crescent has the cheapest price tag at an estimated cost of $2 to $2.3 billion in 2012 dollars, but it would have the longest travel time. According to the executive summary, its projected end to end travel time would be between 4 hours and 35 minutes and 5 hours and 34 minutes.
The I-85 route would stop at four stations in Georgia: Suwanee, Doraville, downtown Atlanta, and the airport. I-85 is the most expensive route with an estimated cost between $13.3 and $15.4 billion in 2012 dollars. The I-85 route has a projected end-to-end travel time between 2 hours and 42 minutes and 2 hours and 50 minutes, according to the executive summary.
According to the executive summary, there is currently no state or federal funding available to develop the Atlanta-Charlotte corridor.
GDOT’s Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the railway, meant to establish the project’s purpose and evaluate its environmental impacts, was published on Sept. 20. The 45-day public review and meeting period will end on Nov. 4, and the project will then be re-considered by GDOT and the Federal Railroad Administration. According to the executive summary, GDOT and FRA will consider public and agency input to create a final analysis in which they will select a preferred corridor.
Clarification: A previous version of this article did not include that the projected costs of each rail route were in 2012 dollars. This article has since been clarified to reflect that.