Monday, February 16, 2009

Just blow it up already

I frankly haven't had the energy to wade into the whole GDOT-Beltline mess. It seems on its face patently ridiculous what GDOT is up to, but it is also the sort of thing that requires significant research to prove wrong. I'd mostly likely just end up spluttering in anger and looking silly if I tried. Luckily, Maria Saporta has talked to transportation and railroad experts:
In the 1920s, there were as many as 325 passenger trains passing through Atlanta every day. As late as the 1950s, there were more than 100 passenger trains a day serving Atlanta.

And, to the best of everyone’s knowledge, none of those trains used the BeltLine path to get downtown.

Let me repeat that. The BeltLine rail corridor only served industrial users, not passenger trains. All passenger trains reached downtown through other lines.

So it is a total falsehood to say that the only way downtown Atlanta can get commuter rail, high speed rail and/or Amtrak is through the BeltLine corridor (also known as the Decatur Belt)...

In talking to several railroad experts, it is clear that it is technically feasible for Amtrak, intercity passenger rail and commuter trains to serve downtown. Some tracks downtown would need to be restored between Armor Yard, the Howell Junction and the multimodal station. That would permit trains to easily turn at the station, which would take about the same time as the BeltLine detour.

This whole thing seems so ridiculous that I have to pinch myself. Is GDOT seriously trying to derail the largest, most ambitious transportation iniative in the largest city in the state? A project that is necessary to prepare Atlanta for the projected population growth of the next 25 years? GDOT is trying to kill a massive transportation project when reports are coming out showing that Atlanta (and Georgia) is losing out on billions of dollars in investment because of traffic congestion? GDOT is doing all of this after not saying peep for years, after the city has spent millions of dollars? At a time when it will jeopardize millions of dollars in federal stimulus funds?

Really? WTF? My mind reels. I cannot for the life of me see the angle here. Maybe GDOT is trying to use the BeltLine as leverage to get urban Dems to oppose Sonny's reorganization proposal?

Sonny: please continue with your plan to blow up GDOT. This is one of the things I used to fantasize about when I worked at the Capitol. Seriously, I remember standing in the hallway outside the Senate after GDOT screwed a piece of legislation I was working on over territorial/power issues. I stood there fuming, wishing someone, anyone, would be willing to take on GDOT and at least bring some accountability to the place.

I could be forced to re-evaluate Sonny's term as governor if this thing goes through. I'm still quite wary, because it may be a situation where they shift power around to the Governor, Speaker, and Lt. Governor, but nothing really changes. I mean, at least two of those folks are accountable to the public and would be more responsible for what goes on, so that is a plus. I'm not really sure if this reorganization would be a good thing for Atlanta, though. It's not like a Democrat or anyone from the city will get into those top positions any time soon, so we'll probably just keep getting screwed.


  1. I don't find it much of a coincidence that Wayne Mason has very strong ties to the GDOT. It would not surprise me one bit if this was his doing. Remember, he has had some incredibly highly placed people doing everything they could to give him his zoning on the NE corridor - including ex-governor Roy Barnes as his personal mouthpiece and lapdog. And on his way out of the deal, Mason threatened giving the right-of-way's to heavy rail if he didn't get his way.

  2. Thanks so much for posting this. Leave it to Maria to get to the bottom of all this. I love it when she says, "Let me repeat."

  3. Though I support the Beltline wholeheartedly and find some fault with GDOT for their handling of the intown passenger line proposal, I question the potential benefits that a State Transportation Authority would bring. Especially considering the power that the governor will have over STA... I'm not sold on the closing of GDOT.

    I'll be interested in reading more about this in the future... keep up the good research and writing!


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