Commuter Rail & the Legislature

This is an interesting development that may hurt commuter rail projects

A little-noticed, 11th-hour insertion into the state budget apparently prevents the Georgia Department of Transportation from spending a dime of state funds on commuter rail projects, including the controversial Lovejoy line, without approval of the General Assembly.

The paragraph, tacked on during behind-the-scenes negotiations, has scuttled the purchase of 34 used passenger rail cars from New Jersey Transit that would have been used on a commuter rail line between downtown Atlanta and Lovejoy in south Clayton County.

The language caused the state DOT board on Thursday to let a deadline for the rail car purchase lapse without even discussing the deal at its monthly meeting, according to a DOT spokeswoman.

The provision, only recently discovered by state DOT officials, doesn’t carry the force of law but is a statement of the Legislature’s intent as to how the DOT should spend its money.

“The Legislature clearly said with the language in the appropriations bill that we can’t do an expense at all without running it through them,” said Vicki Gavalas, a DOT spokeswoman.

In Henry County, our Republican legislators have been fighting hard for a local referendum on the proposed Atlanta-Lovejoy commuter rail. Unfortunately there were state constitutional issues involved and the referendum was dropped.

8 comments

  1. Demonbeck says:

    Seriously, why Lovejoy? I mean I can understand Macon or Athens or even Forsyth, but Lovejoy? Maybe I am missing something, but this idea makes zero sense to me.

  2. JaseLP says:

    The plan is for three phases: Lovejoy, Griffin and eventually to Macon.
    The reason the Henry County Republican legislators were fighting it is because phase two would have a station in Hampton, which is in our county.
    I’m against the rail just because of the cost involved and the costs that will be levied on the local municipalities that agree to handle the yearly operating costs.

  3. Demonbeck says:

    The rail needs to go non-stop from Macon to Atlanta for it to be useful at all. Two stops in between? That’s ridiculous.

  4. bird says:

    Demonbeck,

    All commuter rails have numerous stops along the way. In regard to the Atlanta-Macon line, this would make a lot of sense. First, many of the towns along the route exist today because of railroad stops back in the day. It would provide a boon to the South Metro area to have a rail stop as people can live in these cities, get great homes for the money and great lifestyles while still commuting to Atlanta for some of the top jobs this country has to offer. I could never live in Griffin because I could not take the commute to Buckhead every day.

    Also, train lines have schedules, so you can have an express route that runs directly from Macon to Atlanta without any stops, while also having intervening service that makes stops along the way. This way you get the best of both worlds, fast travel and an economic engine in the intervening cities.

  5. Demonbeck says:

    As long as there is an express route, from Macon to Atlanta, I think the idea has merit. Otherwise, who is gonna ride from Macon, especially since traffic would be lighter? Of course, I believe that we must also plan for a nonstop between Macon and Savannah – connecting the state’s two fastest growing economies.

  6. NewnanYankee says:

    The governor and state legislature just do not get it when it comes to transportation. They either do something meaningless and stupid: See Gov. Perdue’s tax relief during the Katrina induced price spike. (Prices were not meaningfully reduced and the state coffers took a serious hit.) Or they do something intentionally harmful like this piece of legislative tripe.

    As gas prices continue to rise and metro Atlanta development continues to spread, people will want some alternatives to driving 40+ miles each way to work.

    The commuter rail initiative has an 80/20 federal match. Ir seems like a bargain for the state to me.

    Please legislators, give us a choice.

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