Running high-speed, passenger rail lines between Atlanta and Jacksonville, Louisville and Birmingham is economically feasible, according to a consultant’s study presented Wednesday to the State Transportation Board.
The Jacksonville line should be built in two phases, first to Savannah, and then to the Northeast Florida city, consultant HNTB recommended in its study. Possible stations along the route would include Griffin, Macon, Savannah and Brunswick. The feasibility study was the first of many long steps in setting the final course of the train routes and securing funding.
The three routes were studied after an earlier study showed the feasibility of a route from Atlanta to Charlotte. That project is now in the stage of estimating the environmental impact of possible paths.
Construction of any of the lines is likely to be many years in the future. But the Obama administration has made high-speed passenger rail a priority and provided funds for exploring routes.
Fares between Atlanta and Jacksonville would range between $119.41 and $152.24. Construction would cost from $5 billion to $16 billion, or $11.5 million to $41 million for each mile. That compared to $54 million per mile as the top range of the estimate on the Atlanta-to-Birmingham route.
The last two paragraphs lead me to believe that there's a better degree of fiscal sanity and proper planning involved than has been evident with CAHSR. Advertisements like a $55 fare from Los Angeles to San Francisco, when retracted soon after the passage of Prop 1A, and construction estimates which similarly mushroomed in size did grave harm to the public's support for the program and will delay it severely.
Running it into Jacksonville means a connection with All Aboard Florida (for whom Congressman Mica is attempting to get red tape fast cut). If this project does get a roll on, I would not be surprised to see AAF electrifying and otherwise upgrading their line from Jacksonville to Miami in order to run through service as well as financially contribute to the construction of the line. With a proposed northern terminus in Louisville, it's not past the imagination to believe a connection might be made to the proposed Midwest HSR network in Cincinnati, leading to a 2,000 mile long high speed rail line stretching through almost every environment and terrain America has to offer from Minneapolis to Miami.
Politically, of course, the feasibility is another story entirely. I'm not familiar with the state level politics in the South, so I can't really say as to how likely they are to get this going (although interstate cooperation never bodes well). If AAF is perceived to be a success after it opens in 2014, I think high speed rail in the South stands a good chance of gaining a sufficiency of political support. If so, that opens the door to more Federal funding for CAHSR and Midwest HSR as a quid pro quo with their respective state delegations.
A PDF of the presentation visuals can be found here. Unfortunately it isn't one of the more detail filled examples.