State Tollway Authority helping to relocate Amtrak Station to Atlantic Station, GDOT board member says

By David Pendered

The state’s tollway authority is negotiating the planned relocation of Amtrak’s train station from Buckhead to Atlantic Station, the mini city on the western edge of Midtown.

The station’s proposed relocation was to be the first item discussed at a meeting convened today by Emory McClinton, a member of the state transportation board. The matter never came up.

“Gena [Evans] is negotiating it. That ‘s all I can say,” McClinton said after the meeting.

Amtrak station locations. Credit: Mapquest, David Pendered

Amtrak station locations. Credit: Mapquest, David Pendered

Evans is executive director of the State Road and Tollway Authority. The agency is best known for collecting tolls along Ga. 400.

The agenda item at McClinton’s meeting stated:

I.  Updates on:

a.  Amtrak Relocation of Brookwood Rail Station

Gov. Nathan Deal chairs the SRTA board. State law provides SRTA with broad powers, including the authority to:

  • Condemn land;
  • Borrow money by issuing revenue bonds;
  • Build, maintain and operate properties.

The SRTA board meets on an “as needed basis” with notices published on its web site and the Fulton County Daily Record, according to SRTA’s web site.

SRTA is comprised of five members who have great influence, by virtue of their position or political connections:

  • The governor;
  • The GDOT commissioner;
  • The lieutenant governor’s appointee;
  • The House speaker’s appointee;
  • The director of the governor’s budget, which is named the Office of Planning and Budget.

Telephone calls and emails seeking more information from SRTA and Amtrak were not immediately returned.

In 2002, SRTA spent $10.4 million in tollway collections to buy 6.8 acres on the west side of Atlantic Station. At the time, the land was intended to be a landing pad for a proposed transit line from Cobb County.

Earlier this year, the site was earmarked for Amtrak’s new station. The state requested federal funding to help build a facility, but did not receive the money.

Georgia had applied for $22.5 million in federal funds to help build a facility with a pricetag of $38.9 million. The project was expected to take 18 months to build and open as early as July 2012, according to the state’s application titled: “Part II Statement of Work.”

Here are some interesting tidbits from the application:

  • “Currently, the condition of the station is in need of additional major renovations and repairs.
  • “The center island platform and canopy are in poor condition and need to be replaced to provide an ADA compliant platform
  • “Foundation piers for the station are beginning to deteriorate and will not provide structural support to the station in the near future.
  • “During a recent inspection of the facility, it became clear that the bridge deck under the parking area is in disrepair and required immediate closure to vehicular traffic.
  • “This closure (March 15, 2011) eliminated all on-site parking including the ADA accessible spaces.
  • “Ridership for the Atlanta station is expected to increase from 112,000 passengers annually in 2010 to over 170,000 passengers annually in 2030.
  • “Amtrak in a partnership with Georgia Department of Transportation studied potential station locations beginning in 2009 …
  • “[I]t was concluded that a station located adjacent to Atlantic Station is the most viable option and is recommended to progress.”

The proposed site is adjacent to the IKEA building and the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks.

Travelers could reach the proposed station by private vehicle, MARTA or the Atlantic Station shuttle. Any of the methods would be a measurable improvement over the access to the existing Amtrak station, located at the corner of Peachtree and Deering roads.

Private vehicles would exit into Atlantic Station from the Downtown Connector or from Northside Drive. MARTA has multiple routes in the area. The Atlantic Station shuttle connects with MARTA’s Arts Center Station.

The existing station is accessible by MARTA bus and vehicles that arrive from Peachtree or Deering roads.

 

 

 

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

20 replies
  1. Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.... says:

    Looks like a proactive move being made to connect Atlantic Station with the rest of the Atlanta Region via rail.Report

    Reply
  2. James R. Oxendine says:

    I believe that Mr. Mc Clinton is a member of the Board of the Georgia Department of Transportation representing the 5th Congressional District and Vance Smith is the Commissioner, according to the minutes of the May, 2011 meeting.Report

    Reply
  3. david
    david says:

    Mr. Oxendine,
    You are correct. I had thought the term was a traditional title of respect. It was confusing, even if correct, and I have changed the headline and reference in the story.
    Thank you for bringing it to attention.
    Regards,
    DavidReport

    Reply
  4. BPJ says:

    Here’s the problem: the only sensible place to connect intercity passenger rail, commuter rail, and MARTA is at the proposed multimodal station Downtown. If money is appropriated to build a station by Atlantic Station, then funding for the multimodal station becomes more difficult to obtain.

    The existing Brookwood Station can be retained as a commuter rail stop; it can be connected to Atlantic Station by pedestrian walkway far more cheaply than building a new station.Report

    Reply
  5. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ BPJ

    Why do you say that the proposed sataion in the railway gulch downtown is the only sensible place to connect rail and MARTA? What’s magic about 5 Points? The main reason for the 5 Points locat was to be close to Rich’s main store , and it’s gone.

    MARTA was designed to bring a NW line off the N line at Arts Center. Swing over by Brookwood Staion and there you are. No need to go to Atlantic Station.

    Look at DC, NYC and others and you will find multiple transit interface points.Report

    Reply
  6. BPJ says:

    The 5 Points station is at the center of the MARTA rail lines, in four directions. No other station has those characteristics. For this reason the federal funding that is available for a station is available at that location, only – or so I have been told by people who know. The Atlantic station idea has been rejected for federal funding.

    I have known about the proposed NW since the mid-1980s. As far as I know, there is no likelihood of that line getting built in the next quarter-century.Report

    Reply
  7. Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.... says:

    From what I know, the proposed rail station at Atlantic Station is intended to be used long-term as a station for a future commuter rail or light rail line running between the proposed future multimodal rail station at Five Points in Downtown Atlanta and up to Gainesville and beyond.

    The facility will be used as an Amtrak station until whatever year the regional passenger rail system in the Atlanta Region and North Georgia is built and the multimodal station is completed and comes online at which time the main station for Amtrak, or the future equivalent of it, will be shifted to Five Points.

    The main intended long-term use of the planned rail station at Atlantic Station is as a commuter rail and/or light rail station to serve Midtown by way of Atlantic Station. The use of the station to serve Amtrak is secondary over the long-term.Report

    Reply
  8. Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.... says:

    Also, I think that the Brookwood Station may likely be kept in use in the future as a commuter rail and/or light rail station serving South Buckhead and Midtown, but this is all still many, many years away, but make no mistake, the development community is behind the move to make passenger rail viable as there is a lot of land spectulation going on around proposed sites for future commuter and light rail stations in addition to the land spectulation that is going on around existing MARTA stations. The development community seems to think that MARTA will be apart of a much larger regional or even statewide integrated mass transit system one day in a future where we won’t be as dependent on automobiles and will be more dependent on rail.Report

    Reply
  9. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ BPJ

    The 5 Points station is the major subway crossing point now, but perhaps not in the future. Intercity and regional rail in most successful transit systems (DC, NYC, SF, London, etc.) intersect with subways, trams, etc. at multiple locations.

    Looking at the Atlanta rail map (http://www.dot.state.ga.us/maps/Documents/railroad/Metro_Atlanta_Rail_Map.pdf), Brookwood Station makes more sense than the Gulch. It doesn’t seem reasonable to take Amtrack down to the Gulch and then back near Brookwood before continuing to Charlotte or Birmingham.Report

    Reply
  10. Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.... says:

    @Burroughston Broch:

    The proposed multimodal rail station at Five Points is meant to recreate the centralized grand Union Station that Atlanta once had in the pre-World War II era when trains were the dominant mode of regional and national travel.

    The multimodal rail station at Five Points is planned and intended to be the dominant rail station for not only the Atlanta Region, but also the State of Georgia and the entire Southeastern United States. The intent is to make Five Points as important to the Southeastern U.S. as Chicago’s Union Station is to the Midwestern and interior U.S. or like Grand Central Station is to the Northeastern U.S. There will be many other multimodal stations scattered throughout the Atlanta Region, North Georgia and the Southeastern U.S., but there will be none other like in the Southeast like Five Points, which is proposed to be the centerpiece of the future Southeastern U.S. passenger rail network.

    There is only one Amtrak line that runs THROUGH Brookwood Station at present in “The Crescent” that runs between New York and New Orleans.

    The multimodal station at Five Points is proposed to be the TERMINUS for multiple high-speed, commuter rail and light rail lines. Five Points is proposed to be the terminus for a very major East Coast/Piedmont/South Atlantic high-speed rail line connecting New York, D.C. and Charlotte with Atlanta. Five Points is also intended to be a possible terminus and/or major layover point for future high-speed trains running west from Atlanta across the Southern tier of the U.S. to Texas and other points west as far away as California and for future Chicago to Florida high-speed rail lines by way of the highly-touted high-speed rail line between Chattanooga and Atlanta.

    I don’t have any personal experience with New York’s Grand Central Station, but I have ridden Amtrak, local subways and regional commuter trains into Washington DC’s Union Station and Chicago’s Union Station. Any train line that passes through those stations, even if going straight through, has a major layover in those stations because of those cities extreme importance as major destination points. Though it should be noted that Chicago is such a major crossroads and destination point in the Midwestern and interior U.S. that every Amtrak and commuter rail train line that enters into Chicago’s Union Station either originates or terminates there. There are NO Amtrak or commuter rail train lines that simply pass through Chicago’s Union Station on the way to somewhere else. Chicago is the destination point for every Amtrak line that runs into it and is the origination point for every Amtrak line that runs out of it.

    With Atlanta already being the site of the World’s Busiest passenger airport in Hartsfield-Jackson, the prime beneficiary of one of the world’s busiest and fastest expanding seaports in the Port of Savannah and the location of a major convergence of three major interstate highways, the introduction of a robust comprehensive network of passenger railroad lines has the potential to make Atlanta as dominant of a city as Chicago, or even Los Angeles in terms of culure, population and importance.

    Atlanta has so much immense economic, industrial, logistic and cultural potential and major investment in rail is the way to unlock that tremendous and seemingly endless potential, potential which is more than even most rail advocates and current Atlantans can even imagine or are even aware of just what the city is capable of.Report

    Reply
  11. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?….

    I appreciate your passion, as I am also a rail fan. However, recreating the old Union Station would address yesterday’s problems. Today’s reality is:
    1. The only reason for enhanced intercity passenger rail to go downtown would be if it were connecting to Macon, Augusta or Montgomery. The Amtrack connections to Birmingham and Charlotte, and the connection to Chattanooga are all on the northside through or near Brookwood.
    2. There is no need to funnel future commuter rail into downtown because only a small proportion of the commuter traffic works downtown. Connect these lines into MARTA at the nearest convenient point and let them change trains, as is done in DC, SF, NYC, London, etc.
    Don’t forget that Atlanta once had three rail stations.Report

    Reply
  12. BPJ says:

    I agree with “last democrat”.

    A large portion of the commuter rail traffic works Downtown. Commuter rail works when there are areas with a certain density of workers. Therefore Downtown’s % of overall metro employment is not the relevant number; its % of workers in relatively dense areas is. Also, as I mentioned before, my understanding is that the station Downtown is what the feds are willing to fund.

    Back to work for me. How do you guys have time for all these posts?Report

    Reply
  13. Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.... says:

    Burroughston Broch:

    You’ve got to realize that the proposed multimodal rail station at Five Points is NOT about today’s reality, but IS about TOMORROW’S possibilities. As BPJ has stated, the Five Points site is the only one where the Feds are willing to fund construction of a large multimodal station, the Five Points site is also popular with regional planners because it is intended as a major redevelopment project to help REVITALIZE the lower Downtown and Five Points area making it more desirable for dense residential and commercial development.

    The long-term intent is to make that area of the city even more important than it once was in the pre-Korean War era of rail dominance by redeveloping the Five Points and the Lower Downtown areas into a mixed-use commercial, residential and entertainment district that is akin to the scale and importance of New York’s Times’ Square in Midtown Manhattan.

    The intent is to make Five Points in Downtown Atlanta the major origination, destination, connecting and major layover point for almost every national passenger rail line in the Southeast in the same way that New York’s Grand Central Station is in the Northeast. There will be other multimodal rail stations in the Atlanta area where passengers can connect with other trains in the same way that they can in the NYC Tri-State Area, but Five Points will be the DOMINANT connecting and layover point in the Atlanta Region and the Southeastern U.S.

    It should also be noted that the Five Points multimodal project is being driven by extensive land speculation in the area of the proposed terminal, because this is Atlanta, of course, and what would any project be without real estate developers being the driving force behind it. This proposed project is also part of Atlanta’s desire to assert its position as the dominant city in the Southeastern U.S. over regional competitors out to assert some dominance of their own like Nashville and, especially, Charlotte, a city that took our regional financial dominance from us about 25-30 years ago and won’t hesitate to take our position as the dominant logistical and cultural center in the Southeast if given the chance.

    This project is NOT about need as Broughston Broch is correct that there is no real need to funnel all commuter rail traffic Downtown, but this project IS about the want and the desire to make Atlanta unquestionably the most dominant city in the Southeast in the way that New York already is the most dominant city in the Northeast (and on the entire Eastern Seaboard) by making Downtown Atlanta the major connecting-destination-origination-layover point for trains in the Southeast and a compliment to the Atlanta Airport’s existing dominance and critical importance as a connecting point for commercial passenger airplanes.

    What’s the old saying about the Atlanta Airport, “Whether going to Heaven or Hell, you’ll have to change planes at Hartsfield”? Well, that’s the intent of the proposed multimodal station at Five Points, to make it a place that you have to go, but on trains instead of planes. The redevelopment of the Five Points area with the train station being a centerpiece of the development is also about making Atlanta much more of a destination city for business, commerce, culture and tourism in the way that Grand Central Station and Times’ Square in Midtown Manhattan already does for New York.

    I guess you could say that the proposed Five Points multimodal terminal is basically all about making Atlanta much more important than it already is when it all boils down to it.Report

    Reply
  14. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?….

    What you describe is all oriented around the dreams and greed of a few city planners, politicians, developers and the owners of the Gulch, not about the needs of travelers. It is a pipe dream to try to make downtown what it was before airplanes became the dominant mode of long distance travel. It is a concept based on yesterday’s memory rather than today’s and tomorrow’s reality.

    Think of it this way. Let’s say that I am a commuter who lives in eastern Gwinnett and travels to a job near Cumberland Mall. How is the multimodal project going to help me? I’m going to drive to a commuter rail station, ride to the multimodal, change to another train, then change to a bus to get to my workplace? I’m not going to spend at least 1.5 hours each way; instead I drive it in 45 minutes each way, saving me an hour a day.Report

    Reply
  15. Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.... says:

    Burroughston Broch says:

    July 1, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    @ Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?….

    “What you describe is all oriented around the dreams and greed of a few city planners, politicians, developers and the owners of the Gulch, not about the needs of travelers. It is a pipe dream to try to make downtown what it was before airplanes became the dominant mode of long distance travel. It is a concept based on yesterday’s memory rather than today’s and tomorrow’s reality.”

    Greedy city planners, politicians, developers and land speculators? In a (land developer/speculator-controlled and dominated) city like Atlanta? No way! Get outta here! Turning undeveloped pieces of land and real estate from pipe dream into profitable (emphasis on PROFITABLE)
    overdeveloped parcels of gridlocked reality is what developers do and have done very well in this town since the end of the Korean War. It’s just that now the emphasis is quickly turning to overdeveloping (and encouraging overpopulation and congestion) dense transit-compatible and transit-oriented projects along busy rail lines and away from the traditional emphasis of promulgating overdevelopment of sprawling commercial and residential car-oriented projects along busy highways.

    The real estate developer and land speculator community is also surprisingly patient as many of the parcels of land that we know to be major suburban retail and commercial centers today may have been owned and accumulated over a period of close to 25 years or even more before they eventually were developed into major retail outlets and commercial and business centers.

    Developers, speculators and investors know that land near major transportation nodes are great long-term investments and in the past they often bought land near major freeway or highway junctions that may have seemed far-flung and out of the way at the time of purchase, but they knew that the suburban development would eventually reach and overtake the parcels of land that they bought to hold long-term.

    Prime examples: Investors started accumlating parcels for what would eventually become the Mall of Georgia in Buford in the 1970’s over 20 years before the mall would open because the land was close to the junction of an existing freeway in I-85 and a future freeway in the then-still proposed I-985 which was still several years from being built at that point. The land in the area for what would eventually become Discover Mills Mall in Duluth was began to be accumulated and purchased in the late 1950’s, over 40 years before that mall opened because investors knew that two major freeways would eventually meet near that location in the then still proposed and under construction I-85 and Georgia 316. Investors are applying the same logic to future development later on in the 21st Century, buying and accumulating land along proposed passenger rail lines and near proposed major passenger rail stations because that the land will likely be many times worth what they paid for it making either them or their descendants much more comfortably wealthy then they already may be.

    “Think of it this way. Let’s say that I am a commuter who lives in eastern Gwinnett and travels to a job near Cumberland Mall. How is the multimodal project going to help me? I’m going to drive to a commuter rail station, ride to the multimodal, change to another train, then change to a bus to get to my workplace? I’m not going to spend at least 1.5 hours each way; instead I drive it in 45 minutes each way, saving me an hour a day.”

    In this far-off alternative reality of a multimodal regional mass transit system, if you were commuting from Eastern Gwinnett to Cumberland Mall you would have multiple options of getting between those two particular points A & B.

    Let’s say you are commuting from the eastern part of Gwinnett around Dacula off the 316 corridor to the Cumberland Mall area. In a built-out system, you wouldn’t have to ride the inbound “Brain Train” all the way into the Five Points multimodal station to transfer to a train, but would only have to ride as far inbound as the Northlake/Tucker area multimodal station where you would transfer to a light rail line that would take you across the frequently heavily peak hour-congested I-285 Top End Perimeter corridor to the Cumberland Mall multimodal station where, depending on how far away from the station you work, you could either walk a short distance to your job or transfer to a circulator shuttle that only has a five to seven minute frequency between each connecting shuttle on the route.

    That 45 minutes that you would normally drive each way only applies if conditions on the route that you travel are close to perfect with no accidents, incidents or inclement weather, including rain which, as we all are well aware, turns every major roadway in the Atlanta area into parking lots during morning and afternoon rush hours. Add in an engine fire, a horrible multi-car collision, an overturned/jackknifed semi-tractor trailor, rain or all of those elements mixed together and that routine can easily morph into a delay-ravished commute of more than two hours or even longer.

    You personally may not be inclined to use rapid transit everyday but after frequent idiotically ill-timed rush-hour delays of extraordinary length on the notorious network of Atlanta-area interstates, expressways and highways, people like you and many other Metro Atlantans may be more than a little inclined to use a well thought-out system of commuter trains, light rail, cable cars, buses, vans, subways and elevated trains.

    Keep-in-mind that this is a built-out multimodal system that exists in a future dimension where the Atlanta Region has upwards of between eight and ten million inhabitants where the freeway system has been built-out and way beyond capacity for quite sometime. If the traffic issues can be really troublesome now with a population of just below six million, just imagine how bad the traffic issues are with a metro/regional population of between 8-10 million where the use of mass transit is ALOT less optional with a maxed-out road network.

    One thing that you’ve got to remember is that this heavy use of and/or dependency on rail exists in a future era where most, if not all, major American metro areas are completely built-out and gas prices are likely much higher than they are even now. These rail concepts exist in an a future era that is almost completely unimaginable to most of us living in a very early 21st Century era where everyone is overdependent on automobile travel and has been for basically the last 50 years. Though keep-in-mind that this era of overdependence on automobiles, the dominance of air travel and the development of once far-flung locations like Cobb, Gwinnett, Cherokee, etc was once beyond unimaginable to people living in the pre-World War II era when cars were used, but rail was unquestionable the dominant mode of transportation.

    It’s not surprising that you and many others are having trouble imagining a time in the future when single-occupancy vehicles may not be the dominant mode of transportation, but with the continuing rise in gas prices and the obvious unsustainability of sprawling car-dominated development the handwriting is on the wall. Urban and suburban areas can’t and WON’T sprawl forever because continued endless sprawl is just not possible due to the laws of gravity.Report

    Reply
  16. Franco says:

    Good points made by all. I would just like to point out that NYC’s Grand Central Station has been an exclusively commuter rail station for some years now. NYC’s Penn Station hosts both Amtrak intercity service and Long Island RR and NJ Transit commuter trains.

    An Atlantic Station station could provide the run-through facility Amtrak needs for the Crescent and could be a stop for commuter rail, light rail, and/or bus connections in the future. It can complement whatever is contemplated for Five Points. Something needs to be done for Amtrak now, not in 10 years. Have you been to Brookwood Station lately? It is an absolute nightmare. While I’m glad so many people are riding Amtrak these days, it is difficult to maneuver in that tiny space when many passengers take their jumbo suitcases on the train. Thankfully, they have installed a Quik Trak ticket kiosk there to relieve the line at the ticket window, but you can’t check a bag to most of the stations on the Crescent route, so the people and bags clog what little floor space the station has. A bigger station may even attract more Amtrak riders.Report

    Reply
  17. Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.... says:

    Franco says:
    July 4, 2011 at 11:09 am

    “Good points made by all. I would just like to point out that NYC’s Grand Central Station has been an exclusively commuter rail station for some years now. NYC’s Penn Station hosts both Amtrak intercity service and Long Island RR and NJ Transit commuter trains.”

    Your statement is a reminder to mention that the commuter trains, commuter buses, local buses and subways are all run by the same transit agency in the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority of the State of New York) on the New York side.

    “Something needs to be done for Amtrak now, not in 10 years. Have you been to Brookwood Station lately? It is an absolute nightmare. While I’m glad so many people are riding Amtrak these days, it is difficult to maneuver in that tiny space when many passengers take their jumbo suitcases on the train.”

    The current state of the Brookwood Station is both emblematic and symbolic of what passenger rail travel has been reduced to in Atlanta, and many other places around the country, in a car-crazed and car-dominated culture in the United States circa-2011.

    Small, cramped Brookwood Station is symbolic of the low priority that is placed on transportation in the State of Georgia these days.

    Hard to believe that Atlanta was once a rail-rich town with a grand multimodal station at the site of where the Richard B. Russell Federal Building now sits, isn’t it?Report

    Reply
  18. Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.... says:

    @ Franco, July 4, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Also, I apologize for completely overlooking the “very small and minute” detail of New York’s Penn Station when stating a case for a multimodal transit system over the long term in Atlanta. My bad.Report

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

What are your thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.