Federal agency approves new study to bring high speed rail to Fountain City

Federal agency approves new study to bring high speed rail to Fountain City

Columbus, GA (WTVM) - With the latest study paving the way for a high-speed train from Columbus to Atlanta, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said the results make the Fountain City the ideal launching pad.

"First of all, Columbus has one of the most feasible rail lines in the country at this time," said Tomlinson, who is a huge supporter of the project.  

Tomlinson said the reason for that is because the city already has 90 miles of state-owned rails at their disposal.

"The state owns all of the right of way already," Tomlinson said. "There may be little parcels, but not many at all."

The project committee estimates a one-way ticket from Columbus to Atlanta on the express, electric rail train will cost $40. 

Committee members, including Tomlinson, have already been approached by interested parties who see the venture as a win-win for them and the Fountain City.

"Fort Benning is very interested," Tomlinson said. "And it would make our airport extremely competitive if we would become a regional, low-cost carrier hub."

Perhaps most surprising, Tomlinson said, is the projection that once the rail is built, it will contribute approximately $5 million to the local economy in no time.

"I don't think that anybody expected that this rail line would be predicted to be self-sustaining, meaning profitable in the first year of operation," Tomlinson said.

From here, city planners have to start an environmental study of the route - from Dekalb County to Newnan and straight to Columbus.

However, the project committee can now get that study done in half the time, thanks to a waiver approved by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Charlotte Weber, the deputy project manager for the feasibility study, said this waiver will streamline the process.

"What the Federal Railroad Administration has done is they've reviewed our feasibility study and said, 'You don't have to do this.' The environmental assessment - what it does is it eliminates having to do that two-tiered process and we do one study," Weber said.

Weber, who works for HNTB Corporation, the architecture firm hired to conduct the study, said they could have that environmental assessment ready in as little as three years. 

Still, the tentative opening for this railway is still slated for 2030.

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