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Rail alternatives include Hall route

POSTED: May 29, 2013 11:20 p.m.

Public information hearings will take place in three states next week on potential passenger rail service between Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C., a study area that includes Hall County.

The lone Georgia meeting is set for 4-7 p.m. Tuesday in the City Council chambers at Suwanee City Hall, 323 Buford Highway.

The public also can view a “24/7 virtual meeting” at www.dot.ga.gov/AtlantaCharlotteHSR between Tuesday and July 4.

People “will be able to leave feedback as they would at the open house,” DOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale said Wednesday.

Other meetings are scheduled for Wednesday in Greer, S.C., and Thursday in Charlotte.

The Federal Railroad Administration and Georgia Department of Transportation are studying potential routes from Atlanta to Charlotte as part of the Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor under development from Charlotte to Washington, D.C.

The extension from Charlotte would travel southeast through portions of South Carolina and into Atlanta.

However, “the exact termini of alternative corridor routes have not yet been established and will be finalized as a part of the (public input) process,” states a DOT release on the matter.

The public process, also known as scoping, “will address connectivity to proposed and existing passenger rail stations, airports and other regional transportation services along the corridor,” the DOT states.

The project particularly will consider connectivity to the proposed Georgia Multi Modal Passenger Terminal and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, and the proposed Charlotte Gateway Station and Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.

There are six potential corridor route alternatives, including the Norfolk Southern railroad corridor and CSX Transportation right of way, as well as Interstate 85 as it cuts through Northeast Georgia.

One alternative stretches as far as east as Augusta, then travels northeast to Columbia, S.C., before heading north to Charlotte.

Gainesville-Hall County is part of the Norfolk Southern corridor running between Atlanta and Charlotte, according to a DOT document.

“Some of these corridor alternatives were previously defined as a result of a 2008 feasibility study,” according to the DOT.

“Other potentially feasible routes may also be identified if they meet the basic requirements of the purpose and need statement for the corridor.”

The possibility of passenger rail service, including a possible route through Hall, isn’t a new concept.

It even has been embraced as part of an Oakwood planning document that envisions how the city’s downtown area might look by 2030.

Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, Mass., completed a study in the summer of 2008 for the Georgia DOT, evaluating high-speed rail options in the Macon-Atlanta-Greenville-Charlotte Rail Corridor.

The study mentioned a possible route connecting Greenville, S.C., and Gainesville.

“Approaching Gainesville, there should be no major obstacles to sharing (right of way) or acquiring (right of way) for double track,” according to the report.

The report showed a picture of the Gainesville Amtrak station, which “needs to be upgraded but appears to have sufficient space to allow significant modification,” according to the report.

“The station is near the central business district and could become a focal point for rehabilitation for the area, which is slightly degraded.”


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