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Monday, November 21, 2011 - 1:45am

Columbus Wants In On Rail Talk

Columbus leaders do not want to be left out of Georgia’s passenger rail discussion. So Mayor Teresa Tomlinson is creating a Mayor’s Commission on Passenger Rail to make sure Columbus is not forgotten.

“We want to make sure that Columbus is that second or third step and not so far down the line that it takes us decades, when and if Georgia does begin to invest in rail,” Tomlinson said. “We don’t want to be that far out of the main game.”

When the interstate highway system was built, Columbus opted out. Tomlinson said that will not happening with proposed passenger rail lines in Georgia. And while she does not know yet if rail is a good investment, but she wants Columbus at the table.

“It is most certainly something worth talking about,” Tomlinson said. “You can’t stand here and look at the other states that have these types of passenger rails that are successful that have seemed to enhance the quality of life and the economic development aspect of those communities and say we shouldn’t be talking about it.”

Tomlinson’s commission will be charged with finding out if the community wants rail and its potential impact on the area.

Rail advocates are pushing for an Atlanta-to-Macon rail line as a first step.

Tomlinson said it could be possible for Columbus to connect to that line in Griffin using abandoned railroad tracks or highway right of way.

Voters in three transportation regions – Middle Georgia, Atlanta, and Three Rivers in west central Georgia – will decide next year whether to fund planning for passenger rail as part of the penny sales tax for transportation.

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