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Wednesday, September 15, 2010 - 10:01am

Hunting For High-Speed Rail Funds

The state envisions high speed rail crisscrossing the state --- spreading out like a web from the center in Atlanta to Chattanooga, to Charlotte, to Macon, to Augusta and Savannah.

Most of those projects are waiting for federal grant money to move forward. The state applied for $60 million to study the lines. State transportation officials say they should know by mid –October how much Georgia will get.

Money has been a real hurdle for Georgia’s high-speed rail plans in the past. The major funding source for transportation projects is a gas tax that can only pay for roads.

But chairman of the senate committee on inter-modal rail and transit Democratic Senator Doug is hopeful dollars won’t be as hard to find in the future.

He says high-speed rail projects could be on the 2012 ballots as part of a new funding bill which lets voters decide if they want to be taxed a penny for transportation projects.

"If we pass the sales tax, the regional SPLOST, that is being talked about, come July 2012 for each of the 12 different regions... that’s a major way of how some of those are going to be funded," says Stoner.

Currently, the DOT is putting together a criteria list for locals to draft their project lists.

The DOT is also getting ready to put out a request for proposals to build a station where all the high-speed lines would come together in Atlanta.

"Kind of like how Hartsfield is for airlines," says Stoner, "this would be for high speed rail and all types of rail, really, not just for here in Georgia, but for the whole southeast."

Stoner says the center would also connect MARTA and bus lines. The DOT will put out the request to find a developer to design the center in December.

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