Could commuters eventually be able to get from Atlanta to Charlotte in about two hours?
Maybe, according to a proposed federal high speed commuter rail corridor proposal.
The federal government is proposing a high-speed rail line roughly following the Interstate 85 corridor — although the exact route has not yet been chosen — that could theoretically get passengers from one city to the other in as little as two hours.
“The purpose of the Atlanta to Charlotte DEIS is to improve intercity passenger travel between Atlanta and Charlotte by expanding the region’s transportation system capacity and improving trip time and reliability through high-speed passenger rail services,” GDOT officials said in an announcement.
“The corridor is also an important extension to the planned SEHSR corridor system which will connect Washington, D.C., Richmond, Virginia, and Charlotte, North Carolina. When complete, it will improve capacity and travel times, provide an alternative to other modes of travel, enhance energy efficiency, promote economic development, and increase traveler safety.”
A public meeting to hear feedback on three proposed routes was held from 5:30 until 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Georgia Department of Transportation in Atlanta. Residents who could not make it to the meeting, however, still have a chance to have their opinions heard.
Public comment will also be accepted online until Nov. 1 at bit.ly/33NdnsE.
A website outline the project, complete with PDFs of possible route maps, has also been set up at bit.ly/35VKn3F.
The website shows travel times and speeds on the routes would depend on a variety of factors, including the type of trains used, geography, layout of the routes and distance between stations.
A diesel-powered train, for example, has top speeds between 79 and 125 mph while electric trains have top speeds between 125 and 220 mph.
Maps of the three main proposed routes show there would be a limited number of stations along the way, including one in Suwanee. Each possible route, however, includes a variation that would take the route through Lawrenceville and Tucker instead of Suwanee and Doraville.
But, only one of those variations, for a proposed route that would roughly follow Amtrak’s Southern Crescent line, shows a station in Lawrenceville.
The proposed “Southern Crescent” route would have stations at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, downtown Atlanta, Doraville, Suwanee, Gainesville and Toccoa in Georgia; Clemson, Greenville, Greer and Spartanburg in South Carolina; and Gastonia, Charlotte-Douglas Airport and downtown Charlotte in North Carolina.
The variation on that route would turning south after the Gainesville station into Gwinnett, with stations at Lawrenceville and Tucker, before heading into downtown Atlanta.
The next proposed route is referred to as the “I-85 Corridor” alternative. It would have the same stations in North Carolina, but it would drop the Greer and Clemson stations — while adding one north of Anderson — in South Carolina.
Its route into Georgia would also be substantially different with the Toccoa and Gainesville stations dropped, replaced by a station in Commerce before heading to the Suwanee station.
The variation on this route would drop south at around Braselton and cut through Dacula, Lawrenceville and Tucker, but it would not include any stops in Gwinnett.
The third proposed route is one that departs most from the others. Known as the “Greenfield Corridor” alternative route, it mostly stays away from towns directly on I-85.
It heads south from Charlotte into South Carolina and then veer west to a station at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport on I-85. It then heads south away from the interstate again toward a station south of Anderson. After that, it heads into Georgia, to a station in Athens, before heading to a station at Suwanee.
The variation on this route also branches off at Braselton through Lawrenceville and Tucker, but like the variation on the “I-85 Corridor” route, does not include stations in Gwinnett.
Documents show the ‘Southern Crescent” route would be the cheapest, with capital costs between $2 billion to $2.3 billion, but it would also have the lowest 2050 annual ridership at 940,000 to 1.18 million riders. The trip would also take four hours and 35 minutes with a diesel train on both shared and dedicated tracks or five hours and 34 minutes by only sharing tracks.
The “Greenfield” route would be the fasted trip at two hours and six minutes with an electric train, or two hours and 44 minutes with a diesel train, and is expected to have a 2050 annual ridership of 5.38 to 6.3 million riders. Its capital cost would be $6.2 billion to $8.4 billion.
The “I-85 Corridor” route would have the highest capital costs, with projections between $13.3 billion and $15.4 billion. The trip would take two hours and 42 minutes with an electric train on a dedicated track, or two hours and 50 minutes with a diesel train on a dedicated track. It would also have a 2050 annual ridership of 5.5 to 5.62 million riders.