Thursday, January 28, 2010

Georgia gets diddly-squat for high-speed rail funding (Updated)

Posted By on Thu, Jan 28, 2010 at 4:56 PM

click to enlarge 'Welcome, Amtrak riders. This train's next stop is North Carolina, where elected officials actually care about rail programs.'
  • 'Welcome, Amtrak riders. This train's next stop is North Carolina, where elected officials actually care about rail programs.'

In June 2009, Vice President Joe Biden wrangled governors for a briefing on high-speed rail stimulus funding. According to a press pool report, Biden jokingly told Gov. Sonny Perdue that "Georgia gets nothing." Maybe he wasn't kidding.

The White House this morning announced which states have been awarded grants as part of President Barack Obama's $8 billion high-speed rail initiative. (Read a PDF of the recipients here.) Such states as Illinois and North Carolina will receive millions (and in Florida's cases, billions) to put people to work and actually build tracks. Georgia, which for decades has been fixated on roads and nothing else, might get a measly $750,000 to conduct "feasibility studies."

No tracks, no trains, just more plans. It's a great day to be a Georgian, ain't it?

Don't blame the federal guvmint. The announcement was to be expected after the state's executive and legislative branches have neglected to find funding sources that could pay to operate rail programs. Federal funding for one program in particular — a commuter rail line from Atlanta to Lovejoy — has sat unused since 1999. Last April, a congressional committee signaled it was prepared to finally pull the earmark. And the General Assembly still hasn't sprung to action.

"I am disappointed, but not surprised the grant passed by Georgia without stopping," Congressman David Scott, D-Ga., whose district includes the Atlanta-Lovejoy line, told CL. "What message does it send that the state has not used $80 million for passenger rail earmarked a decade ago? If we don't all get on board for transportation reform soon, the state will suffer economically."

We've reached out to Perdue's office for comment. We'll update when we hear word.

(Photo by Joeff Davis)

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