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Atlanta to Chattanooga high-speed rail line still on the table

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A Tier 2 study could move the project closer to fruition

Deutsche Bahn Presents New ICE 4 High-Speed Train
High-speed rail could come as either a Maglev or steel-wheel train.
Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

It’s been nearly a year since the results of a nine-year study for a hypothetical, high-speed rail link between Atlanta and Chattanooga were released, and now the project could be rolling farther down the tracks.

According to the Chattanooga Times-Free Press, the next step in the years-long process is a “Tier 2” study to further understand the impacts and costs associated with the proposed system.

A report by the Georgia Department of Transportation indicates that, if approved, the study “would identify a preferred technology, identify specific location[s] for stations and maintenance facilities, and will define the alignment on which the HSGT would operate.”

Currently, the preferred alignment for the train corridor would be along Interstate 75. Eight stations would service riders from the Atlanta airport, downtown Atlanta, the northern suburbs—including Smyrna, Kennesaw, and Cartersville—and Dalton, before stopping at the Chattanooga airport and downtown Chattanooga.

Estimates put daily ridership at around 12,000 people, though it’s unclear how many would utilize the entirety of the 128-mile trip, slated to take under 90 minutes despite traffic conditions.

Proponents of the line in Chattanooga underscore the impact the train could have on their airport.

Of course, the next round of studies is contingent upon funding.

Ultimately, the project could cost more than $8.5 billion—roughly equivalent to five and 12 Mercedes-Benz Stadiums.