Department of Transportation to Look Into Rail Links

Wed August 29, 2007 - Southeast Edition

ATLANTA (AP) The state Board of Transportation voted Aug. 16 to allow its staffers to look into ways to fund and create commuter rail linking Atlanta to Lovejoy and Tucker, lines that could eventually lead to rail connections between Athens, Macon and the state capital.

It would cost about $400 million to develop an Atlanta to Athens train line, said spokesman David Spear.

“The board has indicated they want the department to pursue funding strategies and implementation strategies that would make those things happen,” Spear said. “We still don’t have the funding, the long-term operating funds, to secure the Lovejoy line and virtually no funding for the Athens or Tucker line.”

The Georgia Department of Transportation may only use federal funds or money from the General Assembly for the project instead of state gas revenue, which may only be used for roads and bridges, Spear said.

He said $107 million in federal and state funds already has been appropriated for the Atlanta to Lovejoy segment but that only guarantees a balanced budget for the first three years of the rail link’s operation.

“We have to have projects that we can take to the federal government and say this will be a self-sufficient project,” Spear said.

Tucker is in DeKalb County east of Atlanta, just outside the Interstate 285 perimeter, and Lovejoy is south of the city in Clayton County near the Henry County line.