The Georgia Department of Transportation may build a highspeed railway from Atlanta to Charlotte, North Carolina. The department is considering three different lines: Southern Crescent, Interstate 85 and Greenfield. All lines would run from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to the Charlotte Gateway Station, but the stops along the way differ. Notably, the Greenfield line would include a stop in Athens. GDOT is accepting the public’s input online through Nov. 4.
Having a station for a highspeed train in Athens that connects with major cities would benefit the UGA and Athens communities, and residents should publicly support the Greenfield line.
A highspeed train would help reduce traffic. Many UGA students likely live in the metro-Atlanta area, and being able to take a train would reduce gridlock. The INRIX 2018 Global Traffic Scorecard rated Atlanta as having the 11th-most impactful traffic of US cities with a $1,505 cost of congestion per driver. This traffic places a burden on students who frequently need to go home. A new highspeed railway would make it cheaper and quicker for these students to travel back and forth between their homes and Athens. And, for students without a car, this would save their parents from needing to drive down to Athens to pick them up and then all the way back.
Further, besides being the best for the Athens community, the Greenfield route is arguably the best line overall. According to the infrastructure design firm HNTB and a Revenue and Ridership analysis, the railway would cost between $6.2 and $8.4 billion in 2012 dollars, and its end-to-end travel time is estimated to be between 2 hours and 6 minutes and 2 hours and 44 minutes. The I-85 route is much more expensive as it would cost an estimated $13.3 and $15.4 billion in 2012 dollars. The two lines would have similar ridership, with Greenfield having a predicted annual ridership of 5.38 million to 6.30 million and I-85 having a predicted annual ridership of 5.50 to 5.62 million by 2050. Further, it would take a much longer time to ride the Southern Crescent line than the Greenfield line. Its projected end-to-end travel time is 4 hours and 35 minutes to 5 hours and 34 minutes. Admittedly, with an estimated cost of only $2.0 to $2.3 billion in 2012 dollars, Southern Crescent is easily the cheapest option. However, it would also likely generate less revenue because its projected ridership — 0.94 to 1.18 million by 2050 — is much smaller than the other lines’.
Complaining about Atlanta and Athens traffic is a staple among the cities’ residents. By building a highspeed railway connecting the two, the GDOT could reduce congestion and generate a strong amount of revenue. Athens residents should take advantage of the opportunity to give public input and tell the GDOT exactly how building the Greenfield line would help the city and state.