Regional rail from Atlanta into middle Georgia another casualty of flawed sales tax proposal

I’ve written quite a bit about transit lately, including the general lack of commitment to transit projects in road-addicted Georgia.

As I noted in a post yesterday, Georgia is right at the bottom in terms of state funding for transit projects. Minnesota, another physically large state with a sharp concentration of population in one metro area, spends $65 per capita in state funding on transit. Georgia spends 63 cents.

As the state has backed off from any type of transportation spending — whether the usual building of new roads or of support for mass transit projects — the onus has been placed on artificially created regions to come up with lists of projects to be funded by a new 1% sales tax that may or may not be approved by voters in 2012. It’s a horrible system for funding critical infrastructure — even worse than what we had before — but it’s what we have. I’ll soon make another post updating the cynical politics of the issue that is leading key Republicans to try to move the referendum from the 2012 primary to the 2012 general election, when more Democratic voters will be at the polls.

One interesting proposed regional transit project was a commuter rail line from Atlanta to Griffin and eventually to Macon. Take a look at the map to the left. The project would have used existing rail lines from Fulton County to Spalding County to Bibb County.

It sure seems like a great idea and the more rural counties embraced it, but — believe it or not — that seemingly small route through the middle of the state actually passes through three different regions that will hold three different referenda in 2012. Spalding County’s region had the project on its TSPLOST list, and so did Bibb’s. But the Atlanta region does not have it on the list, so that regional rail project, which could be a stepping stone for connections into the southern part of the state, is for now dead in the water. Even if the project were on the list for all three regions, the TSPLOST 1% sales tax would presumably have to be approved by voters in all three regions to ensure that things moved ahead.

There’s more here at Georgia Public Radio.

And here’s a description of the project from an FTA website:

The Georgia Rail Passenger Authority (GRPA), in coordination with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), is advancing the 1997 Intercity Rail Plan with its program of combined intercity/commuter rail service in North and Middle Georgia. The plan calls for commuter rail service to Griffin and intercity services beyond to Macon, Georgia. The proposed line will serve seven counties (Bibb, Monroe, Lamar, Spalding, Henry, Clayton, and Fulton) as well as numerous communities along the way. The GRPA has undertaken a study to update the 1997 GDOT Intercity Rail Plan in preparation for completing a Major Investment Study (MIS) in the corridor. Plans for the initial service outline the utilization of over 102 miles of an existing Norfolk Southern commercial freight line.