Sunday, October 12, 2008

Busses and Trains for South Georgia

Bill Gillespie will work for mass transit for south Georgia, including busses. This dovetails nicely with Valdosta's new Comprehensive Transportation Master Plan which contemplates a bus system for Valdosta. Bill goes beyond local mass transit:
I will also seek to commission a study to research the impact and cost of developing a light-commuter rail system for South Georgia, with lines connecting our centers of trade and education. I envision a “coastal connector” with a line to Savannah, Richmond Hill, Hinesville, Jesup, Darien, Brunswick and Kingsland. Atlantic and Gulf RailroadI also envision a “mid-south connector” with a line extending to Baxley, Waycross, Douglas and Valdosta. A goal would also be to use commuter rail to someday interconnect our region with other parts of the state: Athens, Augusta, Macon and Atlanta. No private property would be taken through eminent domain. Commuter trains could use current commercial tracks, or rails could be constructed through interstate medians. The trains would be clean, safe, fast, reliable and affordable, and would run on bio-fuel, produced in the First District, or another form of clean, efficient alternative energy. As your Congressman, I will connect South Georgia.
Much of south Georgia exists because of railroads. The Atlantic and Gulf Railroad connected Savannah to Waycross (shown as Tebeauville), Valdosta, and beyond by 1870. (A&G map from Official Guide of the Railways 1870. Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage by Steve Storey.) Residents of Troupville actually picked up and moved 4 miles to found Valdosta on that railroad.

Other railroads were added, mostly to exploit turpentine and logging, plus passenger trains. (GS&F map from Official Guide of the Railways, April, 1918. Georgia's Railroad History & Heritage by Steve Storey.) By the early 1900s, you could take a train to most sizeable towns in the state, and this remained true through the 1940s. Ask anybody over about the age of 70, and they'll remember.

The beauty of it is: most of those railroads are still there and still in use for freight. South Georgia doesn't need to buy rights of way; it just needs to make deals with the owners of the existing railroads. We know this is possible because Central Florida Commuter Rail is doing it with CSX, which is the owner of one of the main lines through south Georgia and north Florida.

The price of gas may be temporarily down right now, but $3.50/gallon is still more than twice the price of 2000 and there's every reason to expect gas prices will go back up, and even higher. People are already driving less. They'd drive even less if they had another way to get places. It's time for mass transit. Bill Gillespie can help bring back busses and rail for 21st century south Georgia.

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