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Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 4:57am

High Speed Rail Possible, But Costly

Updated: 2 years ago.
Savannah is a major tourism destination. Rail officials say that Amtrak employees are often asked how to get to Savannah by train. (photo Matt Johnson)

A new study says, the federal government could build an Atlanta-to-Jacksonville high-speed rail link in an economically feasible way.

A consultant presented the study to the state transportation board Wednesday, estimating the proposed route's cost between $5 and $16 billion.

To give you some idea how much that figure is, ten counties in Metro Atlanta could levy a proposed one-cent transportation sales tax and over ten years, it would raise an amount near the low estimate of the rail link's cost.

Savannah State Representative Ron Stephens says, high speed rail would address future needs of business and tourism.

"We've got to put the numbers and we've got to start thinking in the future for moving people faster, more economically and we cant wait until that time is here." Stephens says.

But the state has been reluctant to fund rail for decades.

Steve Vogel of Georgia Association of Rail Passengers says, state lawmakers have taken a dim view of funding for rail.

"Our organization has been involved in passenger rail for 25 years," Vogel says. "And we keep hearing the same thing and we keep fighting the same battles. Georgia is still successfully ignoring anything that has to do with passenger rail."

The total cost would depend on whether freight and passenger traffic share the same line.

Georgia would have to share part of the cost.

Stops could include Macon, Savannah and Brunswick.

The feasibility study was the first of many steps in setting the final course of the train routes and securing funding.