Why Charlotte-Atlanta high-speed rail costs are expected to increase in next planning phase

Estimated costs of $6.2 billion to $8.4 billion to build high-speed rail between Charlotte and Atlanta are almost a decade old and will be revised as study of the corridor continues, according to a transportation planner involved in the project.

On July 9, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Georgia Department of Transportation publicly disclosed their recommendation for newly built tracks rather than trying to share and upgrade existing rail along the 270-mile corridor. Transportation experts told CBJ the so-called “greenfield” option — building new tracks — is optimum for ensuring efficiency.

Kaycee Mertz, rail and transit planning manager at the Georgia DOT, told CBJ that revised cost estimates will be calculated as part of the next step in the process, an advanced environmental study. Because funding for that next step has yet to be determined, it’s unknown when that study will begin, she said.

In addition to the Federal Railroad Administration and GDOT, state transportation departments and planners in North Carolina and South Carolina have also been consulted throughout the various studies and plans assembled in hopes of building the Charlotte-Atlanta high-speed rail line.

Currently, officials are collecting public responses to the report issued this month as part of a 30-day response period. When the next phase is funded and under way, focus areas will include specific station locations, project alignment, airport connections (stops are planned at Charlotte Douglas International and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International as well as the Greenville-Spartanburg airport), technology, and how best to route the approach into Atlanta.

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(Watch Below: Preferred corridor chosen for proposed Atlanta-to-Charlotte high-speed rail)