Rail Transit Can No Longer Be Ignored by Georgia Legislators

For a lot of my childhood, I lived a block  from the Central of Georgia Depot on 6th Avenue in Columbus.  That depot was a very busy place, especially during World War two.  Not only were there major passenger trains like the Seminole and the City of Miami, which connected Chicago to Florida,  that made a stop in Columbus, but local passenger trains to Macon,  Montgomery, and Atlanta.  During the war,  my mother and I went by train from Columbus to Joplin, Missouri to visit with my brother who would soon be sent to England and Germany.  I was about 13-years-old at the time.   Railroads put every passenger car they had into service,  including some very old ones,  and the train that took us from Birmingham to Springfield, Missouri was so long it was pulled by not one, but two steam engines. 

After the war,  the emphasis  on automobiles and highways,  and the rapid growth of airlines, just about killed the passenger train business.   Well, for those who believe there are cycles to history, the train cycle is here.  Trains are the most economical and fuel efficient way to transport masses of people.  Finally, national leaders, including Presdient Obama,  are recognising this. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Sunday,  “President Barack Obama announced plans Thursday for a national high-speed rail network that would include lines crisscrossing Georgia connected through a hub in Atlanta.

“The plan would create a European-like system with trains that could run at more than 100 mph. Obama is pledging $8 billion toward development of the system as part of the economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”

Finland Passenger Train Car (Courtesy: Jonic)

Finland Passenger Train Car, upper deck (Courtesy: Jonic, Wikipedia)

Our leaders at the Georgia state capitol, however,  have been in love with highways and cars to the extent they, for the most part, ignored rail,  and critics say this could  hamper Georgia in taking advantage of the federal funding for rapid rail.

The legilsature left the Marta system in Atlanta hanging out to dry by not taking action that would allow the system, which is more popular than ever,  to use funds it already has to keep it up and running.  There is a 40-year-old state law that says Marta can’t spend reserve funds on operating expenses.  That made sense 40 years ago when Marta first started, but now that it is a mature system, it makes no sense at all.

As I reported earlier, Columbus Representative Calvin Smyre and State Senators Seth Harp and Ed Harbison say that situation will have to be faced and corrected when the legislature goes into a predicted special session in July to come up with a new budget.  Let’s hope they and other legislators come to grips with this problem because it is critical.

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2 Responses to “Rail Transit Can No Longer Be Ignored by Georgia Legislators”

  1. Kurt Says:

    Seems to me that Georgia – and really the whole corridor from, say, Birmingham to North Carolina – is prime territory for such a system. In Georgia we have a great hub (Atlanta) and important “spokes” at a fairly short distance away (Augusta, Savannah, Macon, Albany, Columbus, Chattanooga). If the spokes can connect to MARTA, and then to a line extending up into SC and NC, I can see it getting a lot of use.

    Not in my lifetime, though, I’m afraid.

  2. Jeannine Honicker Says:

    Hey, Everyone,

    Dorene Roeglin with the Chattahoochee-Flint Regional Development agency is holding a hearing in LaGrange Wednesday, May 6 on transportaion. Please come!

    I would like to see passenger trains on our existing tracks from Atlanta, thru Newnan, LaGrange, West Point (Kia) and Columbus. Or a line could run from Atlanta, Newnan, LaGrange, West Point, Auburn, Montgomery, New Orleans.

    We could have a beltline connecting LaGrange, Columbus, Plains, Macon, etc. Spokes of the wheel could go directly from Atlanta to Columbus and continue to the south,

    Another line could connect Atlanta, Augusta, Savannah.

    What we need to push this idea are more Sierra Club Groups. There are groups in Atlanta, LaGrange, Augusta, Savannah, Cobb and Guinett counties. If we had groups in Columbus, and Newnan, our voices would be better heard.

    Miller Hobson at WLTZ chanel 38 expressed interest in starting a Columbus group. If you are interested, contact him. I have several other friends there who also would be happy to participate.

    Sam Booher, who helped us start the LaGrange Group, is co-chair of the Augusta Group. He told us at our first meeting that Sierrans care, and we believe we can make a difference.
    It empowered us to try. We believe that we can achieve more as a group than we could as individuals.

    We usually meet the first Thursday of each month. Our May meeting has been delayed for a week, so join us at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 207 North Greenwood St., May 14 at 6:30. We start with refreshments at 6:30. The program begins at 7. Kumar Navile, an environmental engineer, is speaking on landfills this month. We are facing the opeing of Turkey Run Landfill, which we labelled “The Dump” at exit 28.

    Also of interest to people in Columbus is LaGrange’s newly proposed biomass generating plant. Why should you care? Because it is going to use a whole lot of water, perhaps millions of gallons everyday, that would otherwise flow on down the river to you.

    Load up you car and come to see us, May 14.

    Jeannine Honicker

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