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.