We estimate that during the 10-year period from fiscal year 1997 through fiscal years 2006, the state spent approximately $21.1 million in state and federal funds for studies proposing a network of seven commuter rail lines and seven intercity lines that would serve Atlanta and other major cities. As of January 2007, however, the only project in development is a 26-mile commuter rail line from Atlanta to Lovejoy – a compromise project that was never identified as a stand-alone rail line in any of the studies (even though it may function as such).
Ten years and $21.1 million in taxpayer dollars and absolutely nothing to show for it! This is information that seems to have been kept from the public. Furthermore, the small print shows the numbers are actually $26.8 million from additional non identified contracts from 2003 and 2004 from within the GRPA!
On page seven of the report, you’ll see a map of all the proposed state rail lines in the state. What the map doesn’t mention is the total cost for these projects, which the Statewide Transportation Plans lists the total for this lines at $12 billion.
Exhibit seven (p. 9) shows the ever changing bureaucracy of commuter rail in Georgia, the Exhibit also notes that GRPA eliminated all paid support staff last year, however the GRPA board is still in place and chaired by former Clayton County Commissioner Carl Rhodenizer who has just publicly admitted he authorized a contract that Clayton County had no intentions of ever honoring.
The report shows that GDOT and Norfolk Southern have reach an agreement “in principle” on the use of tracks. However, this is after 33 months of negotiations and they still say they are three to five months from a finalizing an agreement. As the report shows these negotiations were only supposed to last five months. Here we are 28 months later, watching money being thrown away by a bureaucrat’s dreams.
Now, here is the most sobering part of the report, the risks of the Atlanta-Lovejoy line.
– Possible need for additional funding: According to the Georgia Department of Audit’s reports that an additional $10 million will be needed to develop engineering plans to construct rail stations. Also the reports states, “GDOT personnel also indicated that they were considering such alternatives as having the land for rail stations donated.”
– State liable for federally allocated funds ($87 million): The report quotes a letter from the FTA to GDOT that “if the service were terminated before the 20-year useful life is relaized, the non-depreciated value of the Federal investment accomplished on the privately owned [right of way] would have to be remitted to FTA.”
– Liability for operations shortfall: CMAQ money will pay for the first three years of operating costs. Intially, Clayton County had agreed to pay the shortfall after the CMAQ support ran out, as has been documented here, that attitude has changed.
– May not be “fair test” of rail service: The report states that success or failire of the Atlanta-Lovejoy line could impact future rail projects in the state. The project notes that if this line fails, rail supporters could complain that it wasn’t “a fair evaluation of the overall passenger rail concept.” So even if the line comes into operation and fails, rail advocates may cry foul? That doesn’t make any sense. Especially since the warnings have been given countless times.