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Tennessee officials take step forward with potential Nashville-Atlanta Amtrak line

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How much the 250-mile link would cost—and who might pay for it—would be the subject of a study

A train station with two silver trains on either side of a platform.
Atlanta’s single Amtrak station today only heads northeast, into the Carolinas, and west, toward Birmingham. Washington D.C.’s is shown here.
The Washington Post via Getty Im

Tennessee state officials mulling the possibility of an Amtrak rail link between Nashville and Atlanta have taken an important step forward.

On Wednesday, the Tennessee Legislature’s transportation committee passed a bill that could lead to the creation of a feasibility study, which would assess potential train routes to Atlanta, how much they might cost, and who would pay for them.

Tennessee state Rep. Jason Powell, a Democrat from Nashville, told Curbed Atlanta today the potential commuter rail line would provide a crucial connection between the fast-growing cities, with possible stops in Chattanooga, Tullahoma, and Murfreessboro.

“This corridor is one of those where it’s just glaring that there’s not a connection on the map,” Powell said.

How to cover the costs of what would ultimately be a roughly 250-mile route, of course, is another question altogether.

A spokesman for Amtrak, which presented route ideas to Tennessee officials a few weeks ago, told Curbed the railroad company is interested in developing lines where government funds would support the projects.

“This is a business we want to grow,” said Marc Magliari. “Half of our ridership every year—and that’s more than 31 million—is on state-sponsored routes, and we want to continue to grow that business and be a resource for states or regional entities to take some of the burden off the highways, and to be responsive to the growing number of people who choose not to have a car.”

Said Powell: “If there’s a high-dollar amount thrown out, that might lessen the enthusiasm, but I think the appetite is there. Both Atlanta and Nashville are booming.”

If realized, the Atlanta-Nashville Amtrak line would take passengers between the two cities in about six-and-a-half hours, according to Nashville’s WKRN news station.

Today, Atlanta’s single Amtrak station, on Peachtree Street, heads only northeast, into the Carolinas, and west, toward Birmingham.

A Georgia Department of Transportation spokesperson told Curbed the agency has “not been approached by Amtrak at this time.”

In other passenger rail-related news, federal and state officials have been crafting a plan that would connect Atlanta to Charlotte by way of high-speed rail lines.

Called the Southeast High-Speed Rail (SEHSR), the route would one day stretch from Atlanta to Washington D.C., and then to the Northeast Corridor that links to Boston.