High speed rail project to connect Columbus with Atlanta

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - City leaders are considering a plan for a high speed train moving from Columbus to Atlanta at over 200 mph.

The proposed rail system riding the interstate median may take shape over the next two decades.

Tracks will run between the Columbus Airport and Hartsfield Jackson Airport. If you're going to other parts of Atlanta, you'll need to take connecting trains. The Columbus Airport director believes creating this increased access between runways will decrease the cost of plane tickets in both places.

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson told a crowd gathered in council chambers Tuesday night, that investing in rail transportation is no longer an old fashioned idea.

"It would be a huge economic development boon. At a minimum, it would have an 11,000 job impact, which is about four Kia plants," she said.

Big cities across the country are making long term plans to create a system of trains to rival our current interstate highways. And in Georgia, our high speed train may run right along side cars on I-85 and I-185. Columbus city planner Rick Jones said it won't cost taxpayers anything extra.

"Everything we're seeing right now, we think we can have either federally funded, through the construction itself of the project. And then the maintenance and operation will be covered by the cost of a ticket," he said.

Phyllis Dent lives in Atlanta but works in Columbus. She was hoping the tracks would be laid in the next few years, but that's not in the cards.

"I will be long retired by the time this happens. Maybe my grandchildren will see it. And hopefully, I'll still be around to see it, but I know I'll be long retired and I won't have to do the commute to Columbus from Atlanta as much."

Mayor Tomlinson said in the current plan, the train will make one stop in Newnan. She envisions the cars loaded with people who have all sorts of business in both cities - not just folks who want a night out without a designated driver.

"I think it would be overly limiting to suggest it would be just going to a couple of Braves games," said Tomlinson.

At a projected cost of just over $41 one way, it sounds expensive now, but when you consider this in 2030 dollars, you have to remember the value of money will be different by then.

And if cars are still using gasoline, the price of that can go up too.

Columbus mayoral candidate Colin Martin expressed his doubts about this project, saying he's not convinced the train idea will make enough money to support itself. He cites the present lack of profitability in the rail industry. Martin said the energy being put into this project needs to be directed towards creating and preserving jobs at Fort Benning.

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