Though the revival of passenger rail service has been talked of and dreamed of for decades, the federal government now is offering huge sums to states that could provide the locomotion to finally pull the train out of the station.
The board of the Georgia Department of Transportation voted last month to draft a statewide proposal for submission to Washington as a way of tapping into the flood of federal money. Six months earlier, it had hired a young hotshot, Erik Steavens, to begin coordinating its modest rail line with bus service and highways. He began by dusting off railroad plans sketched out in the 1990s. Georgia lawmakers in the '90s had mandated the order in which trains would be put into service, starting with a line between Atlanta and Macon, because the power in the legislature at the time was centered in South Georgia. The first phase of that line was to run 26 miles from Atlanta to Lovejoy, to be expanded next to Griffin.
Steavens intends to follow that framework, which would include connections in Macon to other Southern cities.Advocates and real estate developers also have lobbied for a line between Atlanta and Athens that they dubbed the "Brain Train" because it would link so many universities. Joined by environmentalists, they have been the most vocal supporters of passenger rail service in Georgia.
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