Amtrak wants to make Atlanta a railroad hub

(The Center Square) – Amtrak is looking to make Atlanta a railroad hub again, but the quasi-federal agency can’t say how much it will cost to run new routes across the Peach State and the region.

Last year, Amtrak released a $75 billion passenger rail proposal. The plan calls for a new Atlanta rail hub with routes connecting the city with Birmingham, Alabama; Charlotte, North Carolina; Macon, Georgia; Montgomery, Alabama; Nashville, Tennessee; and Savannah, Georgia.

The Center Square has asked Amtrak for a dollar cost on the Georgia portion; at time of publishing, the rail company had not provided one.

The proposed Atlanta-to-Nashville train would take 6 hours and 34 minutes to complete the 280-mile-long journey via Chattanooga, Tennessee.

One Amtrak train serves Atlanta, the New York City-to-New Orleans Crescent. The Gate City’s former railroad stations downtown were razed decades ago, and Amtrak uses a station Southern Railway constructed more than a century ago as a commuter stop.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, the Crescent had a 56.8% on-time performance rate during the first quarter of 2021. It marked the sixth-best on-time performance rate for an Amtrak long-distance train.

In May, Atlanta City Councilman Jason Dozier introduced a resolution to encourage Amtrak to expand its Atlanta presence in the Gulch area, located in downtown Atlanta near Mercedes-Benz and State Farm arenas.

“The City of Atlanta has a long, rich history rooted in the railroads since its first founding days as Terminus, and in that spirit, I’m proud to introduce a resolution encouraging AMTRAK’s establishment, expansion, and investment in the Gulch,” Dozier said in a tweet.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to restore passenger rail service to Atlanta’s city center, and we must seize that moment,” Dozier added. “The Centennial Yards development will be transformative for our city, and with passenger rail, I aim for it to be transformative for our region.”

Marc Scribner, a senior transportation policy analyst for the Reason Foundation, told The Center Square that Amtrak’s forecasts show the railroad believes it will continue losing money on existing long-distance routes that serve Georgia.

In fiscal 2027, Amtrak’s forecasts operating losses of $204.90 per passenger for the Crescent, $51.50 per passenger for the Palmetto, $156.50 per passenger for the Silver Meteor and $155.40 per passenger for the Silver Star. Those numbers are for the entire route, not just the Georgia segment.

The federal government has sent billions of dollars to Amtrak, including $66 billion in last year’s infrastructure bill.

By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor

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