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Chattanooga Escorts a New Era by Reviving Passenger Trains; Includes Stops in Atlanta, Nashville, Memphis

Passenger train travel montage

Chattanooga Escorts A New Era By Reviving Passenger Trains; Includes Stops in Atlanta, Nashville, Memphis

Chattanooga, a city with an extensive historic association with the railroad industry, is leading the initiative to reintroduce passenger train services, a system that experienced its last operation in the early 1970s. Earlier this week, Chattanooga’s city authorities issued a request seeking professional expertise for working out the logistics of passenger service reopening, with routes between Atlanta, Chattanooga, Nashville, and Memphis.

Federal Funding for the Rail Restoration Project

The planning and feasibility study of this ambitious venture will be funded by a federal grant worth $500,000, secured in December 2023 from the Federal Railroad Administration. Ellis Smith, a representative from the mayor’s office, revealed that a team of experts would be responsible for determining the budget for the project and identifying the existing rails that can be reused. He also clarified that they will pen down the places where new rail lines and stations need to be erected.

The Working Consortium and Project Title

Smith revealed, “Chattanooga is assuming the lead role in a consortium that encompasses Atlanta, Nashville and Memphis, following the Federal Corridor ID process. The project has been termed as the ‘Sunbelt-Atlantic Connector’ tentatively.” The success of this venture will pivot on effective collaboration with partners at the state level in both Tennessee and Georgia. Cooperation with planning organizations in both states and class 1 rail hosts like CSX railway network is deemed pivotal.

Mayor Tim Kelly’s Involvement and CSX Partnership

Reports suggest Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly is an ardent advocate for the project and has been working closely for many years with mayors of other cities involved, as well as the Tennessee and Georgia Transportation Departments. Smith added that most affected lines would be ones presently utilized by CSX for freight service and highlighted that their partnership with CSX has been beneficial.

Prospects of New Chattanooga Train Station

Several locations are being assessed for erecting the new Chattanooga train station. The station is likely going to be located near an existing CSX line for easy integration with airborne, taxi, and bus services. The granted funds cover the cost of the initial scoping phase of the program and allows further funding from FRA for subsequent phases of the program without the need for reapplication.

Contracting & Executional Phase

The Request for Qualifications process involves two phases, both the STEP 1 and the future STEP 2, although each phase will be contracted and executed separately. Chattanooga city, due to the nature of this project, is encouraging firms to collaborate or identify subconsultants to achieve the services needed in an efficient manner.

Regular-Speed Passenger Rail System and Project Timeline

Smith clarified that the project aims at developing a regular-speed passenger rail system by leveraging already established railroad tracks that connect these cities. It precludes major engineering and reconstruction that comes along with high speed and maglev trains, which consequently makes the project more affordable and faster to implement. The timeline for each phase of the project can vary, but it is expected that the Scoping Phase will be concluded within two years. Upon completion, the experts will estimate the budget for the next phase of developing a service plan in collaboration with the railroads.

Other Successful Restorations

Over the years, similar ventures have been successfully carried out in regions like Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Florida. The gathered knowledge and predominant practices that align closely with the local requirements in Tennessee and Georgia will be incorporated during the scoping process.

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