Study: Georgia needs billions to unclog rail system

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ATLANTA – The Georgia Department of Transportation this week released a report that said the state needs to spend $18 billion to $20 billion in rail, highway, port, and air cargo improvements to take advantage of its status as a freight hub. In 2007, Georgia generated more than 741 million tons of freight. By 2050, that’s expected to increase 54 percent to 1.1 billion tons.

The department’s Office of Planning presented the results of a two-year study calling for a series of projects to unclog highway and rail bottlenecks across Georgia. Among the study’s suggestions were to expand rail capacity by installing more double track and sidings. In Georgia, 95 percent of all main lines are single track. Among the most congested areas are Howell Junction in Atlanta, where five lines intersect; Norfolk Southern’s Savannah Subdivision between Macon and Savannah, including the Macon Terminal area; and CSX’s Nahunta Subdivision between Waycross, Ga., and Jacksonville, Fla.; the A-Line between Savannah and Florida; and the “Bowline” between Montgomery, Ala., and Waycross.

The recommended rail improvements would cost $4 billion to $6 billion. The report said the challenge would be finding money to pay for the projects. The department predicted that building the various projects would generate $65.7 billion to $72.3 billion in benefits, including additional tax revenue, increased gross state product, and savings in transportation costs.

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