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Southeast High Speed Rail Would Foster Connectivity

August 17, 2016
Megaregions are a major focus of the America 2050 National Infrastructure Program, which acknowledges projected surges in population and explores passenger rail as an alternative to traditional highway infrastructure, according to Georgia Department of Transportation Rail Program Manager Stenley Mack.

“When we think about the growth and new companies, we have to think about how we are going to get these people home and to their jobs and so forth,” Mack said. “At some point, the existing structure might not be appropriate to handle that.”

During the Global South Metro Exchange on July 21, a first-of-its-kind event coordinated by the Upstate Alliance for leaders from the Upstate, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Charleston to discuss global competitiveness, Mack presented overviews of the Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor route extension from Atlanta to Charlotte, which is outlined in the 2050 plan.

The high-speed rail would connect cities along Interstate-85 and other corridors in the Southeast. Several routes are under consideration, including a line along Interstate-85 that could move as rapidly as 220 miles per hour, costing $15.4 billion in (2012 dollars).

Mack focused on the Piedmont Atlantic Megaregion, which includes the Carolinas and Georgia and has some notable characteristics:

  • 78 percent projected population growth from 2010 to 2050, nearly 14 million people
  • Challenges of more ecologically responsible land use and accessible public transit

Various national and multi-state initiatives and studies are influencing the rollout of high speed transit, he added.

Stakeholders in the review and planning process include state Departments of Transportation, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, transit operators, potential rail operators.

Federal Railroad Administration review for the service lines, which includes examination Environmental Impact Statements, public hearings and National Environmental Policy Act documentation, is slated to continue through winter 2017.

Mack said the U.S. Department of Transportation has shown great support for the project, but its future is contingent upon political will and funding allocations. 

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