ATLANTA — Federal and Georgia transportation planners are looking to run a high-speed rail line connecting Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C., via Athens.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Georgia Department of Transportation, working with state transportation departments in North Carolina and South Carolina, have identified the 274-mile route as the “preferred corridor” for the Charlotte-to-Atlanta portion of a high-speed rail line that would continue northeast to Washington, D.C.
“The projected increases in population and economic growth for the Piedmont Atlantic Megaregion create a need for a carefully planned approach to improving rail infrastructure that will benefit Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, the southeastern United States and the nation,” the FRA wrote in its final environmental impact report on the project released last week. “Intercity passenger rail is available for business and non-business travelers that is competitive with other modes of travel in terms of travel time, convenience and safety.”
The co-called Greenfield Corridor Alternative chosen for the project connects Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport with the planned multimodal Charlotte Gateway Station. The line would run mostly along a new dedicated alignment from northeast Atlanta to Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
Due to the size and complexity of the project, the FRA and Georgia DOT are deferring decisions on the route the line would take approaching Atlanta as well as the location of rail stations, and the operating equipment and propulsion technology to be used.
The idea of connecting Atlanta and Charlotte via high-speed rail has been on transportation planners’ agendas for years, but support has varied depending on the makeup of Congress and which party occupies the White House.
President Biden, who commuted daily between his Delaware home and Washington for decades while serving in the U.S. Senate, is a passenger rail enthusiast. Biden even mentioned the Atlanta-to-Charlotte high-speed rail project in a speech last spring marking Amtrak’s 50th anniversary.
With the preferred route identified, the next step for the project will be a 30-day waiting period to let the public review and comment on the chosen corridor.