There has been a proposal for many years to create a commuter rail between Atlanta and Athens. This track would run on the CSX line that is parallel to US Highway 29. This track runs the entire watershed. The section of the track from near Lilburn to downtown Atlanta is highly congested. This would necessitate the construction of a second rail track. The construction of this track would cross the creek, or a tributary, 12 times in six miles.
The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and the Georgia Rail Passenger Authority (GRPA) are planning the implementation of commuter rail passenger service between downtown Atlanta and Athens (and intermediate stops along the way) using the CSX railroad corridor. The corridor is approximately 70 miles in length
Numerous studies have been completed analyzing service levels, operations, expected ridership, station locations, additional track construction, and costs of providing proposed initial and future enhanced commuter rail service.
These studies and various other governmental agency documents of the project have varied in their descriptions in exactly what is being proposed related to services levels, required track and station construction, environmental impacts, expected ridership, costs, implementation schedule, funding sources (federal, state, local) and overall benefits of providing the commuter rail service.
Commuter Rail Plan - Final Report, GDOT, 1995
Initial service in year 2000
Daily ridership 6,600 in 2000, 8,900 in year 2010
Construction cost of $108 million, does not include Atlanta terminal cost of $195 million
- Eliminate all municipal train speed restrictions (currently 79 mph)
- Re-routing the rail line in Tucker along Mountain Industrial Blvd. to bypass the residential Northlake and Emory areas would be less disruptive and more useful.
Proposed Intermodal Program for Rail Passenger Service in Georgia, GDOT, 1999
Initial service in 2004 Atlanta - Dacula, Phase 2 is Dacula - Athens in 2005
Phase 1 construction cost of $132 million, phase 2 cost of $38 million (does not include Atlanta terminal cost of $195 million)
Annual operating costs of $3 million for Phase 1, $5 million for Phase 2
Athens - Atlanta Transportation Corridor Major Investment Study, GRPA, 1999
Initial service in 2002 with construction of a new additional track to provide a second mainline track from Emory to Tucker costing $114 million, enhanced phased 3 operation by 2020 costing $269 million (costs do not include Atlanta terminal cost of $195 million).
Phase 1 annual operating cost of $9.3 million; Phase 3 annual costs of $14.7 million.
Initial service of 5 AM trains and 5 PM trains each weekday.
Initial daily ridership of 7,900 predominately Gwinnett residents traveling to Atlanta .
Recognition that the commuter line would have to cross Burnt Fork Creek 7 times from Emory to I-285, and that 1.8 miles of the line in this section are located in floodplain. (the CSX track crosses Burnt Fork Creek 10 times from Tucker to Emory - BFWA)
Actions are underway to implement the Athens - Atlanta Commuter Rail Project by Federal, State and regional agencies.
- Project is classified as a High Priority Project with FY 1999 funding under TEA-21, section 1602 Project # 101[$900,000] and #1545 [$1,200,000] for "Construct Athens to Atlanta Transportation Corridor."
- The GRPA MIS notes that $14 million in Federal funds under TEA-21 are authorized through 2004 to "Construct Athens to Atlanta Transportation Corridor" under "High Priority Projects."
Project is programmed in the Georgia DOT Construction Work Program, # HPP-NH-OCRL(5), "Commuter Rail Atlanta to Dacula (Athens) Phase 1"
Atlanta Regional Commission, Interim Transportation Improvement Program, 1999
- Project #AR269A "Construct Surface Transportation Facilities Along Atlanta - Athens Corridor Phase 1, $40,000,000 (FY 2000 & 2001)
- Project #AR269B "Construct Surface Transportation Facilities Along Atlanta - Athens Corridor Phase 2, $60,000,000 (FY 2001 & 2002)
- Project #AR269C "Construct Surface Transportation Facilities Along Atlanta - Athens Corridor Phase 3,
The Atlanta Journal / Constitution reported on 11/1/99 that ARC's Regional Transportation Plan includes $60 million to "Construct rail line facilities along the Atlanta - Athens Corridor" with a completion date of 2002.
Plans to begin preliminary engineering and any required environmental studies.
The state recently organized a tri-party steering group to oversee passenger rail implementation consisting of board members of GRTA, GDOT, and GRPA.