It’ll come to Atlanta if Georgia gets its act together.
Wow. Tough words. In my native Georgia, we'd call them 'fightin' words.' When I heard Mr. LaHood had been so direct, I was happy. Finally someone was telling Georgia what they needed to have heard decades ago.
But his words didn't sink in.
Yesterday, the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation released a memo about the department's pending reorganization. And the Intermodal Division is getting a demotion.
The federal government gave Georgia $87 Million toward a starter line for an Atlanta commuter rail system. But the state has continued to hold off on setting aside the small requisite match. Now the federal government is starting to think about getting its money back.
With Charlotte's new Lynx light rail and Nashville's first commuter rail line, Atlanta's place at the front of the pack is no longer assured. Other southern cities are starting to get behind transit. Atlanta is just getting stuck in traffic.
Despite ambitious plans in the 1960s and 1970s, the MARTA heavy rail system was never finished. It was also never made regional. The suburbs still haven't voted to let trains run. The last new rail stations to open in the Atlanta area were Sandy Springs and North Springs, in December 2000, almost a decade ago.
Neighboring North Carolina subsidises Amtrak service, and gets extra trains because of it. To the south, Florida seems intent on reactivating old lines and working toward a high-speed rail network.
But Georgia, the center of the (slightly) more progressive New South, is falling behind the times. It has long seemed that GDOT felt insecure in its newer role managing transportation. After all, the Department of Highways by any other name still stinks to high heaven.
While the rest of America is getting on board with plans to build transit and high-speed rail, to reinvest in our urban areas, to grow smarter, Georgia seems content to be left at the station.
It seems that if Georgia has anything to say about it, and southern extension of the Northeast Corridor can stop at Charlotte. And the Secretary of Transportation is watching.
Georgia just keeps doing things that remind me why I left. But I still hope Georgia succeeds.