The State Transportation Board reaffirmed its support of an Atlanta-Lovejoy commuter rail line.
In a 7-5 vote, the board adopted a resolution offered by board member Dana Lemon of McDonough authorizing Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) Commissioner Harold Linnenkohl to enter into an agreement with Clayton County to establish the line. The agreement would include provisions for the funding of deficits for the maintenance and operation of the rail line “following the successful execution of an agreement with Norfolk Southern Railway Company for access to the rail corridor.”
In 1999, the board directed GDOT to establish a commuter rail program and in March 2004 authorized the department to negotiate with Norfolk Southern for access to the rail line. Those negotiations continue.
The 26-mile rail corridor would connect Atlanta, with a Multi-Modal Passenger Terminal adjacent to the Five Points MARTA station, and Lovejoy in southern Clayton County with stops in East Point, Forest Park, Morrow and Jonesboro.
Startup costs are estimated at $106 million; $19 million has been allocated by the state and Congress has appropriated $87 million.
The line’s operating cost is expected to be $7 million per year; fares are expected to cover 40 percent of that cost. Federal Congestion and Mitigation and Air Quality funds, matched with state toll credits will provide the remaining funding needed for the first three years of operation.
Four trains are scheduled to run daily, running every 30 to 40 minutes carrying up to 440 passengers in double-deck train cars.
The line is expected to be in operation by October 2006.
Critics of Lemon’s resolution wanted to wait for a report from Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Congestion Mitigation Task Force, which is due by Dec. 31.
Voting in favor of the resolution were Ward Edwards of Butler, Billy Langdale of Valdosta, Robert Brown of Decatur, Johnny Gresham of Marietta, Sam Wellborn of Columbus, Lemon, and Emory McClinton of Atlanta.
Voting against the resolution were Roy Herrington of Baxley, Garland Pinholster of Ball Ground, Bill Kuhlke of Augusta, Mike Evans of Cumming and Raybon Anderson of Statesboro.