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Friday, November 5, 2010 - 8:07am

High-Speed Rail Plans Fine-Tuned

The next step to linking Atlanta through northwest Georgia to Chattanooga with high speed rail was presented Thursday night.

A Georgia Department of Transportation official says a meeting in Chattanooga was packed with the excitement level described as “huge” for the latest in the project.

The DOT’s Jill Goldberg says the latest plans unveiled whittle-down more than a dozen proposals…to four.

“They’re all basically coming down (Interstate) ‘75’ and then they vary once you hit the ‘285’ Perimeter in Atlanta.”

Goldberg says the variances from there include several options.

“Using maybe a utility right-of-way, using an existing railroad line, using the right-of-way on the Interstate. We’re looking at all of those things as options.”

Earlier plans included zig-zagging routes with some extending as far as 20 miles east of I-75.

Goldberg says the next step in the process will involve more fine-tuned evaluations of the plans, including environmental impact studies, right-of-way issues, etc.

The target date to have a plan in front of federal transportation officials is the middle of 2012.

But a push to lobby for money on the project can be now. Goldberg says with other states and regions of the country campaigning for their cut of available federal cash, the race is on.

“There’s not an abundance of money. You have to go out there and really prove your case and hope that you’ve got supporters in Washington that can work with you in trying to secure funds you need to move it forward.”

There are another two public meetings scheduled for officials to show the latest high-speed rail plans and listen to feedback: Monday, November 8th at Dalton State College from 6-8 p.m. And Tuesday, November 9th at St. Mark United Methodist Church in Atlanta, from 6-8 p.m.