Current News

Downtown Train Terminal Contract Signed… Now We Just Need Some Trains

The Georgia Department of Transportation today celebrated the signing of a two-year, $12 million contract with a private development team selected to plan — and eventually build — Atlanta’s long-awaited downtown train terminal. Or, as the government folks like to call it, the “multi-modal passenger terminal.”

The station will be built in the vast parking lot between Philips Arena and south downtown often referred to as “the Gulch.” The area was once home to Atlanta’s two train stations — one of which, Terminal Station, should have never been demolished.

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Durrett Named Chairman of MARTA Board

Dec. 28, 2010

Jim Durrett, a member of Georgian for Passenger Rail’s Executive Committee, has been elected chairman of the MARTA board of directors.

Elected on Dec. 28, Durrett, the Buckhead Community Improvement District’s (BCID) executive director, was elected chairman on Dec. 28. He has served on the MARTA board since November, 2009.

“I am honored by the position and look forward to using my many relationships with the business community, the transportation community and state and local government officials to the benefit of MARTA, the next generation of regional transit and the region,” Durrett said.

Durrett will serve a one-year term as chairman, overseeing the 12-member MARTA board. He will also represent MARTA on the Atlanta Regional Commission’s regional transit committee, headed by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

“Jim’s new position will greatly benefit the Buckhead community and all of Atlanta, promoting transportation options and the smart growth of metro Atlanta,” said David Allman, BCID board chairman. “MARTA will be well-served by Jim’s leadership skills and expertise, and BCID is proud of his continued commitment to strengthening our community through civic involvement.”

— Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle, Dec. 28, 2010

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Simens Awarded $466 Million Locomotive Contract by Amtrak

Oct. 28, 2010

Siemens has been awarded a $466 million contract to build 70 electric locomotives for Amtrak’s Northeast and Keystone Corridor lines as part of Amtrak’s landmark fleet rejuvenation initiative.  The contract will require an additional 250 people to build the locomotives, with 200 in Sacramento, Calif. and 50 collectively in Norwood, Ohio and Alpharetta, Ga.

The locomotives will be built at Siemens’ existing light rail manufacturing facility in Sacramento, Calif.  The plant, which has been in operation for 26 years, is powered up to 80 percent by two megawatts of solar energy and employs 750 people.  All main components of the new locomotive will be produced in Siemens plants in the United States – including the motors in Alpharetta and propulsion containers in Norcross, Ga.  The first locomotives will be delivered in 2013.

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Train ridership jumps in North Carolina

Oct. 17, 2010

North Carolina’s Amtrak ridership jumped 15 percent in the last year, compared to a national increase of 6 percent, according to the state’s transportation secretary.

Ridership on the state-owned Piedmont, which travels four times daily between Raleigh and Charlotte, increased 46 percent, the largest percentage increase in the nation. Part of that growth stemmed from the addition of midday service in June.

North Carolina’s Amtrak ridership rose by more than 100,000 passengers in the last fiscal year. Ridership was up from 688,595 to 791,157. Ticket revenue was up more than 19 percent.

“We are pleased to see that more and more people are taking the train,” State Transportation Secretary Gene Conti said in a statement. “We are confident that as we add more schedule options and increase travel speed, this trend will continue.”

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The New Yorker interview: Ray LaHood

Learn more about Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood in this interview by Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker’s Washington correspondent.

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Progress of Nation’s Rail Plan Updated

Sept. 30, 2010

Long-term commitment to freight and passenger rail will be required in order to accommodate future U.S. economic and population growth, according to a new report that updates the U.S. Department of Transportation’s efforts to develop a comprehensive National Rail Plan.

The report, “Moving Forward: A Progress Report,” was released by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

“America’s economic vitality has been driven by investments in transportation,” said LaHood.  “Giving rail a greater role in our national transportation system will help us meet the 21st century challenges of population growth, increasing energy costs, reducing carbon emissions, and ensuring the nation remains competitive in the global economy.”

The progress report builds upon the Preliminary National Rail Plan mandated by the Passenger Rail Improvement and Investment Act of 2008 and submitted to Congress in October 2009.  It outlines the numerous past, present and future factors that make a compelling case for improving rail infrastructure.

Its findings reveal that current demographic analysis and forecasts anticipate continued population growth, especially in urban areas.  Paired with corresponding increases in freight shipments, such growth will place additional burdens on transportation systems that are already working at or beyond capacity.

The resulting traffic congestion translates into lost productivity that will not only harm commerce, but degrade quality of life for citizens.  Since rail is one of the safest and most fuel-efficient modes of transportation, it is well positioned to make a significant contribution to accommodate growth.

Click here to download the Progress Report.

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Gubernatorial Candidate Nathan Deal Says Rail Part of Georgia’s Future

From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sept. 20, 2010

Nathan Deal said passenger rail is “part of the future” of the state’s transportation plans and that he favors the regional sales tax referenda that will be on the ballot in 2012.

Deal, the Republican candidate for governor, told reporters and editors at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Georgia has a unified goal when it comes to improving transportation.

“Everybody has the same ultimate objective,” Deal, a former congressman and state senator, said. “That is to facilitate more rapid and convenient movement of people.”

How to get there, however, is where the work must be done. Voters will decide in 2012 whether they want to add an extra 1-cent sales tax to pay for regional transportation projects. But Deal does not limit his plans for transportation to simply building more roads. He said he favors creation of intermodal stations where rails and roads would meet to facilitate greater options.

“It’s going to require the cooperation of adjoining communities to be willing to work together and at some extent be willing to trust an agency or be willing to trust each other,” he said. “That’s where leadership comes in. It can start in the governor’s office.”

Deal said that passenger rail is an integral part of how Georgians eventually will get around. But, he said, it won’t be easy.

“The question always is, what is the priority, and where do you spend your money first,” he said. “Whether it’s light rail, heavy rail, passenger rail, whatever you call it, it’s expensive because of capital expenditures.”

Any new rail operation would also likely require subsidies to keep it afloat “and that’s difficult to do. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be working toward it.”

Deal faces Democrat Roy Barnes and Libertarian John Monds in November.

If the lawsuit that Georgia is now part of to challenge the law’s constitutionality fails, the state will have to be prepared, he said. He wants to “explore lower cost options that are important,” such as low-cost clinics near major hospitals to cut down on patient visits to emergency rooms for non-emergency care.

If the lawsuit fails, he said: “You’ll see a tremendous outcry from virtually every state in the country. I can’t imagine any state doesn’t have that problem.”

On education, Deal — like Barnes — said he would continue an investigation into a cheating scandal that includes Atlanta Public Schools, and he said he would push the General Assembly to act on suggested changes to the basic school funding formula.

He also repeated his desire to expand access to charter schools.

“It is founded on the principle if we depart from the boxes we currently put public education in and allow a charter school to develop a method of delivering education, they can do it with better results and many times not as much money being spent,” he said.

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Georgia among 25 states that apply for $8.5 billion in transportation funding

Aug. 16, 2010

In an overwhelming show of support for the Administration’s high-speed rail initiative, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced that the Federal Railroad Administration has received 77 applications from 25 states for the most recent round of High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) grant funding. Application requests total more than $8.5 billion and will be considered for funding from more than $2.3 billion appropriated in FY 2010.

This is in addition to the $8 billion appropriated in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) as a down payment for the HSIPR program.

“The response to our call to transform America’s transportation landscape has been tremendous and shows the country is ready for high-speed rail,” LaHood said. “We have received strong bi-partisan support for President Obama’s bold initiative that will enhance regional mobility, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, ease highway and airport congestion and reduce our carbon footprint.”

FRA received 20 applications from 10 states totaling $7.8 billion for high-speed rail corridor development programs. FRA also received 57 applications from 18 states totaling $700 million for smaller, individual projects within rail corridors that are ready to begin construction. While not all proposed projects can be funded, the Department will evaluate the applications to identify the projects that will deliver the greatest public benefits and give American taxpayers the highest return on their investment.

“These historic investments will allow states to take the next step in making their high-speed intercity passenger rail development plans a reality,” said FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “The states and FRA have been working hard to establish a solid foundation for a long-term program that will reshape our transportation system.”

Total funding to date for the HSIPR program comes from several sources:

  • American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: $8 billion.
  • FY2009 appropriations and remaining funds from a related FY 2008 appropriations funded program: $95 million.
  • FY2010 appropriations: $2.125 billion (HSIPR service development projects), $245 million (HSIPR individual projects), and $50 million (HSIPR planning and multi-state proposal activities).

Grant selections for the $2.345 billion in FY2010 appropriations are intended to help states further develop their corridor plans. From this amount, $245 million has been reserved for individual projects within a corridor that is ready to begin construction. Recipients of this funding will be announced in the fall of 2010.

To date, FRA has awarded more than $583 million to states for HSIPR.

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Comment Period Open for Draft Criteria of Transportation Projects

Aug. 6, 2010

Local government officials have until Sept. 30 to comment on the state DOT’s draft criteria for determining the list of transportation projects Georgians will vote on in July 2012.

Todd Long, DOT director of planning, Wednesday sent county commission chairs and mayors around the state the draft criteria for selecting transportation projects for their region that would be paid for by a 1 percent sales tax if approved by voters in 2012. The draft criteria is the first step required by the Transportation Investment Act of 2010 (House Bill 277), which was passed by the 2011 General Assembly.

“We must develop an investment list that is compelling for not only the voters in individual counties, but also for the region as a whole,” Long wrote in the Aug. 3 letter to officials. “Furthermore, we must ensure that we can deliver on our promises by selecting projects that can be delivered within the ten years of the tax.

“Voters will want to see earth moving, traffic flowing, people using the roads, transit and other projects promised in the investment list.”

HB 277 creates 12 regional transportation districts in Georgia. It allows each district to levy a 1 percent sales tax that, if approved by voters, can exist for 10 years and pay for transportation improvements. The 12 districts are represented by a Regional Roundtable, whose members will consist of the chairman of the Board of Commissions (or sole commissioner) from each county in the region and a mayor from each county who is elected by the county’s mayors to represent them. In the Atlanta region, the mayor of Atlanta is also added to the Roundtable.

Once project criteria is determined, each Regional Roundtable must reach consensus on a project lists to put before voters.

For more information on the regional boundaries, HB 277, the Statewide Strategic Transportation Plan, project criteria and revenue projections, go to www.it3.ga.gov.

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GRTA Gets New Executive Director

Jannine Miller was elected executive director of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority on July 14, 2010, by the GRTA board of directors. Miller was recommended for the position by Gov. Sonny Perdue, for whom she has served as policy advisor for transportation since August 2007.

“GRTA has been a catalyst for action in formulating Georgia’s transportation strategy and will continue to play an important role as we execute the Statewide Strategic Transportation Plan and other vital transportation initiatives,” said Miller. “I’m honored by the trust the board and Gov. Perdue have placed in me, and I look forward to leading GRTA as we collaborate with partner agencies to build a multi-modal transportation system that drives economic growth and supports a high quality of life for Georgia’s citizens.”

Prior to serving as Gov. Perdue’s policy advisor for transportation, Miller was the policy and programs consultant for the Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA). She also served as in the private sector as a transportation finance consultant. Miller worked as a senior transportation planner with the Atlanta Regional Commission and as a senior budget and policy analyst in the Georgia Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget (OPB). She is a member of the Taxation and Finance Committee of the Transportation Research Board. Miller attended Georgia State University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree and a Master’s in Public Administration.