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Columbus welcoming feedback on high speed rail project

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COLUMBUS, Ga. - The city of Columbus has completed study that measures the feasibility of a high speed rail line between Columbus and Atlanta.

As WRBL News 3 reported in June, the city contracted with HNTB Corporation to conduct the study. It's one of many similar projects being conducted around the country, and the consultants say it's certainly doable here.

Out of three options explored in the study, HNTB says the best one is the Express train system. It would run along I-185 and travel at about 150 miles per hour.

While it's the most expensive of the three at a whopping $3.9 billion, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson says it won't cost a dime to taxpayers, as money will come from grants, bonds and private investors. The federal government is providing $10 billion in grant money just for high speed rail projects like this one.

"It really takes these individual entities like HNTB and other consulting firms that know all the various pots of money that can be cobbled together to make a project like this come to fruition," says the mayor.

She says the operations and maintenance of the high speed rail should pay for itself in the first year and bring tremendous economic growth, including at least 11,000 jobs to the region.

"Compared to some other lines, ours is not as expensive," says Tomlinson. "It doesn't take as much federal grant money or bond money to get it done, and also I think when you're talking about the difficulty of this project, this would be one of the easier ones."

The mayor says not only will the school district be able to use STEM programs to cultivate the next generation of engineers, but the project would also hopefully attract corporations to make the Columbus area their new home.

Some Columbus residents say they're excited about the prospect of a new way to get to Atlanta. Michael Greene remarks, "
Over the last 25 years I have rode up and down there, and actually a train ride would be a lot smoother, you wouldn't have that traffic to deal with, the congestion. I think it would be a great idea."

Others are skeptical, saying high speed rail talks have been in the works for years. They say they'll believe it when they see it, but the mayor says she is sure that in the coming years, everyone will see the benefits.

A one-way ticket to ride the train is estimated to cost $41. 

The Columbus Mayor's Commission for Passenger Rail will take public feedback Tuesday. A public meeting will be held at the Citizens Services Center from 5:30 pm until 7:30 pm. It will be shown live on CCG-TV.

After the study was first announced last summer, we asked you if you would support the plan. Nearly 200 people took our unscientific, online poll and an estimated 83% were in favor of the project.

Now that several months have passed and the proposal has been more widely publicized, we want to see where public support stands. In a new poll, we're asking the same question: Do you support a plan to build high speed rail between Columbus and Atlanta? We invite you to take our poll.
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