Reed Not Joining Obama Administration; Wants Rail To Savannah

November 8, 2012 12:30 pm

by Charlie · 40 comments

Maria Saporta brings word that Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is publicly stating he has no plans to exit Atlanta for a position with the new term of the Obama Administration. A number of cabinet positions are expected to be vacated as the first term ends.

At the Carter breakfast Thursday morning at the Atlanta History Center, Reed was asked directly whether he could guarantee that he would be mayor in 2017 if he were to be re-elected next year.

The mayor’s answer was an unconditional yes.

Mayor Reed has some unfinished business that he would like to work on during a second term, namely Atlanta’s Beltline.  He also seems to want to push for high speed rail out of Atlanta, given the state’s continued involvement with a multi-modal terminal project downtown.

The mayor also reaffirmed his commitment to explore light rail opportunities for the Atlanta BeltLine despite the defeat of the regional transportation sales tax on July 31.

Reed even went further than that. He said he will be working to get a high speed rail link between Atlanta and Savannah so that the trip could be done in just one hour.

For those who can’t wait until 2014 to get their campaign fix on, Mayor Reed will stand for re-election next year.

Baker November 8, 2012 at 1:51 pm

I wonder where we could find some money for such a project? What if we were able to find $300 MILL laying around?

Baker November 8, 2012 at 1:56 pm

What a dill weed.

The Last Democrat in Georgia November 8, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Yes, I agree with Mayor Reed that high-speed rail to Savannah should be the first transportation priority as the severe traffic problems that plague Metro Atlanta streets and roads can most definitely wait a couple of more decades.

John Konop November 8, 2012 at 2:15 pm

You do a great job of “keeping it real” on all sides! Keep it up!

Charlie November 8, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Nice rant, but “Metro Atlanta’s” traffic problems aren’t “Atlanta’s” traffic problems.

Despite that, Mayor Reed tried to help the region’s traffic problems. He was told by the people in the Metro part of that Atlanta you speak of that they didn’t want “their” money spent on a trolley running around a beltline. When asked why Atlanta couldn’t spend the money generated from Atlanta on such a project, they screamed “local control” and then said it wasn’t needed, without any hint of irony.

So please forgive Mayor Reed if he wants to build a train that will get people from downtown Atlanta to Savannah in about an hour – coincidentally, about the same amount of time I usually spend in the I-75/Hudson Bridge Rd corridor sitting in traffic with other “metro” folks every time I try to drive to Savannah.

The Last Democrat in Georgia November 8, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Charlie, I was actually kind of hinting that commuter rail, not high-speed rail, would most likely be much more of a help to the type of ongoing traffic scenario that you speak of.

Of all people, I am most definitely not anti-rail by any means, but what good is getting to Savannah in one hour on a train that speeds through and past many of the suburban and exurban areas that generate most of the commuter traffic that burdens the interstate and freeway spokes in and out of the city?

But, oh, I forgot, developing commuter rail lines (as well as high-speed rail to Savannah) would require the engagement of state officials, who as we all know are on top of and maintain a firm grasp of the transportation situation in North Georgia, which means that we should see an improved regional road network and commuter rail and high-speed rail all in service between Atlanta and Savannah about this time in the year 3000, so no worries.

Charlie November 8, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Yes, it’s very clear. You think the traffic AROUND Atlanta is somehow what the Mayor is supposed to be concerned about.

He’s running an international city. When he looks at what his city needs, his first priority is to keep the city at the level of prominance that it is.

If the people of the suburbs want commuter rail because they’ve zoned themselves into 1/4 acre lot oblivion and need to get to a real city faster, then their mayors and commissioners might want to champion that cause. Guess what? They won’t. Because their citizens still want all the benefits of being close to a real city but want to make sure they pay for none of it nor have residents of that city be able to reach them.

So please forgive the Mayor for not picking your suburban priorities as his top ones. He tried that, spent a lot of political capital on it, and many – you specifically – spat it in his face.

He’s most likely going to focus on the real Atlanta now, and what it and its residents need. Good luck with the “metro” part. We’re on our own.

Bill Dawers November 8, 2012 at 4:07 pm

You have some great points there, Charlie.

High speed rail (or even decent speed rail that makes the trip in a couple of hours) between Atlanta and Savannah would have amazingly positive consequences for both cities. It’s the type of very expensive infrastructure project that could likely pay much higher long run dividends than just dumping billions more into road construction.

John Konop November 8, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Bill,

Do they have commercial rail for goods from the port to a major airport? That would drive business…..

The Last Democrat in Georgia November 8, 2012 at 5:19 pm

John, Exactly…Quickly transporting freight between the fast-growing and critically important international seaport at Savannah and ATL should likely be the very first priority in implementing high-speed rail service between ATL and Savannah, especially seeing the very notable impact that the Port of Savannah has on traffic on I-75 south of Atlanta.

Bill and the Mayor are all right in wanting to see high-speed passenger rail service between Atlanta and Savannah, but because of the overwhelming logistical impact of freight movements in and out of the Port of Savannah, it is clear that FREIGHT should be the starting point in implementing high-speed rail service between ATL and Savannah.

After implementing high-speed freight rail between ATL and Savannah, implementing regional commuter passenger rail service between Atlanta and Macon should immediately be the second priority.

Implementing high-speed passenger rail service between Atlanta and Savannah, while still important, should be third in importance at best AFTER implementing high-speed freight rail service between ATL and the Port of Savannah and commuter rail service in the same rail right-of-way between Atlanta and Macon.

John Konop November 8, 2012 at 5:34 pm

To your point, if done right, it would create major business investment from Savannah to Atlanta. We would have tremendous leverage in bringing in businesses that need to move goods. And by doing this it would morph into more demand for passenger rail via the added businesses. This would be a major shot into the arm for construction as well between Savannah and Georgia ie jobs homes, commercial buildings, retail…….

The Last Democrat in Georgia November 8, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Exactly. Connecting the site of the world’s busiest passenger airport at Hartsfield in Atlanta with one of the world’s busiest and fastest-growing seaports at Savannah, first with high-speed freight rail and then soon after with high-speed passenger rail, is and should be a no-brainer.

Daddy Got A Gun November 9, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Why would cargo that was at floating about the sea for 13 days, immediately need high speed freight upon arrival in Savannah?

What is the economic need that this rail line will satisfy? I don’t see on that would justify the $1B+ it’ll cost.

The Last Democrat in Georgia November 10, 2012 at 1:13 am

Daddy Got A Gun-November 9, 2012 at 9:31 pm

“What is the economic need that this rail line will satisfy? I don’t see on that would justify the $1B+ it’ll cost.”

The economic need that a high-speed rail line between ATL and Savannah will satisfy is logistical connectivity.

The increasingly fast-growing and increasingly important Port of Savannah does not exist all by itself in a vacuum, the Port of Savannah is Atlanta’s logistical connection to the rest of the world by way of the sea.

In effect, the Port of Savannah is the Port of Atlanta, providing another direct connection to this critical international seaport that is even faster than the I-75/I-16 road connection increases Atlanta’s economic potential by in effect pulling a critically-important logistical asset even closer to the fast-growing major population, industrial, economic, logistical and cultural center that directly overwhelmingly benefits from it.

Connecting Metro Atlanta with the Port of Savannah by way of high-speed freight rail allows companies and businesses to be very close to a major international seaport in an up-and-coming major international population center without having to actually be at the exact site of the seaport (250 miles away from the major city with all the big city amenities where they would more than likely rather be located).

High-speed freight rail to and from Savannah greatly enhances Metro Atlanta’s already great stature as a very major logistical asset.

John Konop November 10, 2012 at 6:23 am

Daddy,

Countries, states……was the best infastructure wins the growth game via economics. A major factor in the failure of the USSR was the lack of infastructure via investing too much in an arms race.

Our country growth from the beginning has been about infastructure investment ie rail, airports…………

As far as commercial movement of goods that is one of the fastest growing industries. Historically business that create, assemble and move goods have disturbution access is a key factor for finding a location. You do understand business feeds off other businesses expanding and or moving into an area? You do know the reason metro Atlanta grew was because we got the airport over Birmingham?

Dave Bearse November 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm

There’s no market for high speed rail freight between Savannah and Atlanta. Freight already can move between Atlanta and Savannah in an hour via plane.

The little passenger vehicle traffic on I-16 is a reflection of the relatively little passenger traffic between Atlanta and Savannah. Georgia would be much better served by high speed passenger service between Atlanta and Charlotte. Service to Charlotte would connect with a more developed passenger rail network in a state that, if Gold Domers took their eyes off the plates that lobbyists set before them, is eating Georgia’s lunch.

NC already has daily morning, midday and evening passenger service each way between Raliegh and Charlotte, with plans to go to five each way service in a few years. NC is incrementally developing its service with future high speed service in mind.

Charlotte next year breaks ground on a new light rail line north from uptown Charlotte to UNC-Charlotte. Georgia’s focus for the next half-dozen years by contrast will be all about rebuilding the I-285 / GA400 interchange, and figuring out how to fool Georgians that toll lanes don’t represent a subsidy to tollpayers.

John Konop November 10, 2012 at 4:12 pm

David,

You can move freight way more cost effectively via freight from Atlanta to Savaanah.

The Last Democrat in Georgia November 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Dave Bearse…November 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm-

Just that fact that the Port of Savannah, one of the busiest and fastest-growing seaports on the entire globe, serves as Atlanta’s main sea cargo link to the world, shows that there is a market for an improved high-speed freight rail link between Atlanta (which, btw, is the site of the busiest passenger airport on the planet) and Savannah.

I completely agree with your very valid assertion that the very first priority for implementing high-speed passenger rail service in the State of Georgia should be establishing high-speed passenger rail service on the Norfolk Southern/Amtrak right-of-way that already directly connects Atlanta by way of rail with Charlotte and the Northeastern Megalopolis (Washington D.C., Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, etc).

But one absolutely cannot discount the importance of the Port of Savannah to the logistical and economic well-being of Metro Atlanta. There can never be too many direct/near-direct logistical and transportation connections between assets that are as critically valuable to this state and region as Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and the Port of Savannah are to the Atlanta region and the State of Georgia.

Just as the I-75/I-16 interstate connection has put this region closer to a major international seaport by way of road and Hartsfield-Jackson Int’l Airport has put this region closer to a major international seaport by way of air, high-speed freight rail service can put this even closer to a critical logistical sea link at the ever-increasingly important Port of Savannah. The importance of the Port of Savannah to the economic well-being of the Atlanta region and the State of Georgia just cannot be overstated.

Dave Bearse November 10, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a strong supporter of freight rail improvements linking Savannah and Atlanta. There’s a strong case to be made for private-public partnerships to improve freight rail because of the public benefits of reduced congestion and public subsidy of trucking (pavements, bridges and congestion). There isn’t any working model in the world for high speed freight rail however. That’s not to say that high speed rail carries no freight, but that high speed rail succeeds or fails based on passenger traffic volumes.

It’s remotely similar to commuter rail making or breaking on commuter, not special events or casual use. I support Athens-Atlanta commuter service for instance, but implementation based on casual “brain train” passenger traffic is likely a mistake. Commuter service succeeds or fails based on day-in, day-out commuter use. Brain train and special event use can be frosting, but without everyday commuters there’s no cake.

After Charlotte-Atlanta, I think Atlanta-Birmingham passenger service ranks above Atlanta-Macon. Extension to Birmingham builds through traffic, and solidifies Atlanta as the informal capitol of the Piedmont megalopolis. (There’s no comparing Charlotte’s I-77 to I-75.)

Atlanta-Chattanooga high speed rail is inferior because the Atlanta-Chattanooga corridor would be better served by commuter service, with stations every 10 miles of so between Atlanta and Cartersville, and maybe three other stops between Cartersville and Chattanooga, instead of intercity rail with perhaps a total of two stops between Chattanooga and the Atlanta core (downtown and airport stations).

The Last Democrat in Georgia November 10, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Dave Bearse…November 10, 2012 at 5:45 pm-

You make some really, really, REALLY good points.

Implementing high-speed passenger rail between Atlanta and Charlotte and between Atlanta and Birmingham as the first priorities would make the most sense as those two segments of rail right-of-way already make up part of the Amtrak Crescent passenger rail line which runs at least once daily in each direction between New Orleans and New York.

Having those segments of rail line as the first priority for high-speed passenger rail service also makes sense because implementing high-speed passenger rail service on the route of the Amtrak Crescent between New York and Atlanta is a high priority for the Feds.

I completely agree with you that COMMUTER RAIL should be the absolute first priority for the rail right-of-ways between Atlanta-Chattanooga (the NS H-Line and the semi-abandoned Chattooga & Chickamauga rail segments between Atlanta and Downtown Chattanooga and the historic CSX/Western & Atlantic rail line between Atlanta and the Chattanooga Airport) and Atlanta-Macon (the NS S-Line west of I-75 and the H-Line east of I-75) so as to help relieve traffic stress from severely-congested segments of I-75 both north and south of Atlanta.

John Konop November 11, 2012 at 8:11 am

This is a great conversation about transportation, hopefully some people in the mix are reading it!

Baker November 8, 2012 at 5:16 pm

I’ll get to reading LDIG’s latest comments in a minute, but for now…

“It’s the type of very expensive infrastructure project “….that should’ve been included in that giant waste that was called a stimulus but instead was just a bailout to irresponsible state govts & unions, & written with regard to political, rather than economic, benefits.

The Last Democrat in Georgia November 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Charlie, I’ve got no problem with the Mayor championing the transportation and logistical causes of his city and while I wasn’t all that big of a fan of the T-SPLOST and thought that the T-SPLOST was a horrific concept to even attempt to apply on a regional scale where our overwhelming and increasing transportation needs are clearly NOT optional, I thought that the T-SPLOST concept would have been a much better concept for the residents of the City of Atlanta, and the City of Atlanta ALONE (which was the ONLY place where the T-SPLOST earned a vote majority), to vote on for Mayor Reed to be able to fund initiatives that are important to the city like the proposed network of Intown trolleys, the Beltline, etc.

If Mayor Reed wants to spend political capital, he should spend it in the right places that can benefit the City of Atlanta and him personally instead of spending precious and valuable political capital trying to get the entire region to fund Intown development initiatives (some of which are admittedly important to the City of Atlanta like the aforementioned Beltline and trolley lines) and wildly unpopular suburban freeways in the right-of-way of the abandoned Northern Arc on behalf of a widely untrusted and unethical state government that is seemingly too cowardly to do their own dirty work when it comes to transportation as opposed to sending Kasim Reed out as the front man to do it for them.

I’ve always maintained that the STATE should be infinitely more CONSTRUCTIVELY and PRODUCTIVELY engaged in the transportation planning process especially as it pertains to the long-overdue implementation of commuter rail in state-owned rail right-of-ways and the regional road network, which not only runs around Atlanta, but THROUGH Atlanta, and even the rapidly declining mess that is MARTA, which, btw, operates through many stretches of state-owned rail right-of-way.

Seeing as though the high-speed rail service between ATL and Savannah that Mayor Reed proposes would operate within state-owned railroad right-of-ways, Reed needs the cooperation of an often-disengaged, sometimes loopy and occasionally totally whacked-out state government to get high-speed rail between Atlanta and Savannah implemented.

IMHO, the absolute first priority in implement rail service between ATL and Savannah should be transporting FREIGHT at high speeds between ATL and Savannah rather than passengers at this point seeing as though Savannah is the one of the busiest seaports in the entire Western Hemisphere and one of the fastest-growing seaports on the planet and which, along with vacation traffic to and from Florida, generates an inordinate amount of the heavy freight truck traffic that makes that the stretch of I-75 that you specifically speak of a total nightmare during peak hours.

And the metro area should not be on its own when its comes to coping with its ever-increasingly pressing transportation needs. The metro area, like virtually every other major metro area on the continent with a population of more than 5 million people, should already have a very willing and engaged partner on transportation issues (BOTH roads and rail) in its own state government. Until the STATE OF GEORGIA steps up to the plate and does its job in managing and overseeing the transportation network that is under its jurisdiction (a network that, again, includes BOTH roads and rail lines), then, unfortunately, you are indeed very much correct that the metro area will be on its own.

It is the STATE that is the missing piece of the Atlanta region’s transportation equation, not Mayor Reed.

John Konop November 8, 2012 at 4:41 pm

I agree!

Charlie November 8, 2012 at 4:55 pm

OK, again, you’re arguing with yourself. If you want me to continue to attempt to engage with you at all, you’re not going to change the subject so you can have these continuing diatribes about whatever pisses you off at this moment.

So, let’s recap:

You posted your usual dump on Mayor Reed, this time as a snide comment saying he should fix metro Atlanta’s traffic problems before looking at projects like inter-city high speed rail.

I then pointed out that metro Atlanta’s traffic problem isn’t Reed’s problem, it’s the suburbs’ problem.

You, missing or ignoring the point, decided to make this about commuter rail versus high speed rail.

I then, again, said that’s not Reed’s problem, that’s the suburbs problem. Also, commuter rail is a solution they don’t want, so Reed is free to focus on things he and his actual constituents do want.

You then responded with 7 paragraphs, the first of which is such a run on sentence that I gave up on, and the second paragraph starts throwing out every transportation project that you’ve ever heard of. After that, I gave up.

Every interaction with you devolves into you grinding every axe you’ve ever experienced. Instead of attempting to break complex situations down into easier to understand parts, you take relatively simple smaller parts and try to encumber them with every item that’s ever pissed you off, with a good mix of every related topic you’ve ever heard of.

In short, you’re doing it wrong.

The Last Democrat in Georgia November 8, 2012 at 5:55 pm

I apologize if you think that I am wrong, but my first comment was not necessarily a snide comment or “dump” directed squarely at Mayor Reed as I am well aware that Reed absolutely must have the express cooperation of the state to get any type of high-speed rail service implemented in the rail right-of-way that the state owns between Atlanta and Savannah.

I also respectfully disagree that commuter rail is a solution that the suburbs don’t want as one of the reasons that the T-SPLOST failed so miserably is that it did not have any provisions in it to bring long-overdue commuter rail service online in the accelerated time frame that is clearly needed.

I have no problems with Mayor Reed focusing on what he and his constituents want, which is an approach that Reed should have taken all along instead of allowing himself to be used by an absentee state government as a messenger to be sent on a suicide mission into a Colombian political shooting gallery to take the heat that they themselves are too scared to take.

griftdrift November 8, 2012 at 2:40 pm

If I could live in Savannah and commute to Atlanta?

DONE, SIR! I SAY, DONE!

AMB November 8, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Please oh Please oh Please.

How long did the Nancy Hanks take to make a run back in the old days?

drjay November 8, 2012 at 3:32 pm

i’m not sure making it easy and conveinent for y’all to get down here is a big priority for me…

gcp November 8, 2012 at 4:22 pm

High speed rail Atlanta to Savannah? More silliness from Reed. Don’t think we quite have bumper to bumper traffic on I-16. But then again Reed is quite good at getting federal money. How many millions in federal money did he get for his trolley folly? 30 or 40 million?

peachstealth November 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Y’all realize high speed passenger rail is going to have to stop in Griffin, Macon, Dublin and Statesboro,which is going to make it less than high speed

Engineer November 9, 2012 at 1:57 pm

I’ve often found it stupid that you have to go all the way to Washington DC to get to Atlanta from Savannah on Amtrak. It can literally take 24 hours to make such a trip via Amtrak.

Scott65 November 9, 2012 at 3:52 pm

what ever happened to HSR between Chattanooga and Atlanta. I know there was some actual federal money to study it, and CHA was really pushing it

The Last Democrat in Georgia November 9, 2012 at 6:53 pm

“what ever happened to HSR between Chattanooga and Atlanta[?]”

A total lack of a coherent strategy and leadership on transportation from the State of Georgia, that’s what happened. Did you actually think that the right hand and the left hand would actually be coordinating with each other when it comes to transportation planning in this state?

There are likely more opinions about on how to proceed on transportation within local, regional and state government than there are on this page.

From what I understand, high-speed rail from Atlanta to Chattanooga is kind of State Senator Jeff Mullis’ pet project (with an emphasis on the term “kind of”).

But otherwise, you and everyone else should know how these things go, somebody kicks around the transportation flavor of the day as a somewhat promising bright idea and then nothing else is heard about it again for another 5-10 years until our State Legislature full of imaginative but wildly unfocused and wildly undiscipined Newt Gingrich “mini-me’s” blurts out the idea again in the middle of yet another in a continuing series of short attention span brainstorms.

fuzzypeach777 November 9, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Yep, here we go again with the “high speed rail” nonsense. Never mind billions would be required to upgrade private property with no assured improvements.

Currently the terminal core complex is saddled with congestion brought on by inadequate terminal facilities. And this situation exists with the present depressed traffic levels from the economic downturn.

CSX has already stated commuter rail to Athens would require reverse signaled double track for the entire distance. That was before the Federal PTC mandate was put into place. Now PTC will have to be added to the Abbeville Subdivision anyway, but consider how much more infrastructure would be required to support passenger operations. Who will pay…?

Howell Junction behind the King Plow complex would require complete rearrangement to accommodate any additional traffic. Presently Amtrak which only operates through there twice a day frequently cannot get through due to CSX delays.

Now we want to go to Savannah? Going to use the present rail route? OK, where will the river of coal going to Plant Scherer in Juliette Georgia go. NS is presently trying to use a computer controlled dispatching executive program to handle train operations here. The program is bug ridden and causing severe delays to what is currently moving over the route. Beyond Juliette Georgia the route plagued with sharp curves limiting speeds to 4o mph. Going to Savannah in an hour over this? I think not. The taxpayers would be on the hook for major route improvements to obtain the speeds desired. More billions.

As we lurch toward becoming Greece with 300 million guns, perhaps projects such as this need to put off until the outlook becomes better. If it ever does.

The Last Democrat in Georgia November 9, 2012 at 7:43 pm

fuzzypeach777…You are indeed very much correct. Implementing passenger rail of any kind at this point (high-speed or commuter rail) would require a heckuva lot more funding than the state (or the feds) even have on hand to just barely maintain the infrastructure that currently exists.

There just is not enough public funding on hand (and minus extremely politically unpopular substantial tax increases there just is not anyway to obtain enough public funding) to properly implement adequate passenger rail service on the existing rail right-of-ways without further interfering with what are already extremely congested stretches of freight rail track.

To properly implement passenger rail service within the highly-desired stretches of freight rail right-of-way there would absolutely have to be very heavy investment by the private sector (public-private partnerships) and a heavy dependence on user fees (not to mention the very heavy use of tax increment financing where the property tax revenues from development that pops up along the passenger rail right-of-way pays the cost of construction, maintenance and operation) as opposed to public subsidies through substantial tax increases.

Your comments underscore that high-speed rail is not something that can just merely be quickly and cheaply slapped together on already severely-congested freight rail tracks. New rail capacity (in the form of double, triple, quadruple and even quintriple tracking on many stretches) would absolutely have to be created in order for passenger trains and freight trains to be to operate seemlessly without interfering with each others operations, something that would be very costly to embark upon, a much more costly investment than most would be willing to make at this time.

Dave Bearse November 9, 2012 at 9:00 pm

No one has even studied adding passenger service on the NS line through McDonough since the 2001. Passenger service proposals use the NS line through Griffin, used by only eight trains per day.

The Last Democrat in Georgia November 10, 2012 at 1:32 am

There absolutely needs to be commuter rail service on both NS lines that parallel I-75 between Atlanta and Macon (the NS line that runs parallel to the west of I-75 along the US 19-41 corridor and the NS line that runs parallel to the east of I-75) as the suburban and exurban communities that straddle the NS line that runs parallel to the east of 75 (Conley, Ellenwood, Rex, Stockbridge, McDonough, Locust Grove, etc.) generate much of the very heavy traffic that frequently plagues I-75 between Macon and Atlanta on a daily basis (even on many weekends).

Harry November 10, 2012 at 8:45 pm

You guys are fighting the last war. Show me the source of the money $billions to get a half-a** high speed rail to Savannah or anywhere else – no feasibility study will support it. There’s no political will other than the mayor of Atlanta and a few local boosters perhaps. Why not do something a little more practical, like filling potholes?

Harry November 11, 2012 at 2:37 pm

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