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High-speed rail forum planned for Wednesday
0607rail
The Gainesville train station could become a stop on a high-speed passenger trail line. - photo by Tom Reed
High-speed rail
Details about a public forum sponsored by the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization:
When: 10-11:30 a.m. Wednesday
Where: Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center, Gainesville
Contact: Srikanth Yamala, 770-531-6809 or syamala@hallcounty.org

It may seem like a futuristic concept to many, but Hall County officials are interested in seeing where high-speed passenger rail is in the state’s sights.

The Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization is sponsoring a meeting for Wednesday that features a presentation by Erik Steavens, director of the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Intermodal Programs Division.

President Barack Obama’s federal stimulus package includes $8.1 billion for high-speed rail.

“That includes just a line from Washington, D.C., to the Charlotte (N.C.) area,” said Srikanth Yamala, transportation planning manager for the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization.

“Phase two includes the remainder of a line from Charlotte to Jacksonville, Fla., through Gainesville. But Charlotte and other parts of the D.C. area already have statewide rail plans done and ready to go.”

Yamala said local officials want to hear from Steavens “as to what the DOT’s game plan is. The other aspect is what we can do within Gainesville-Hall County to make sure whether we want to have a stop.”

And then, if Hall County wants a stop, where would it be and how would the area work “to get other infrastructure elements into it,” Yamala said.

“At this time, everything is open. Maybe Oakwood would be an ideal spot because of the existing (state) Park-and-Ride lots over there.”

The meeting is set for 10-11:30 a.m. at the Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center off Jesse Jewell Parkway in the New Holland community.

According to the DOT’s Web site, studies are ongoing to develop high-speed rail on two corridors: Macon to Charlotte and Atlanta to Chattanooga, Tenn. These are considered intercity routes connecting communities throughout Georgia and the Southeast.

And then there is commuter rail, which would serve commuters heading to work in the Atlanta area in the mornings and then home in the evenings.

One of the planned routes would run to Gainesville, with stops in Buford, Flowery Branch and Oakwood.

Oakwood features a commuter rail station as part of its 2030 comprehensive plan.

“I think some day we’ll see it. I can’t tell you exactly how soon,” Councilman Sam Evans said.

“But it would be something that would be very important when you consider that three-fourths of the people who live in this community live in the southern end of the county.”

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