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Chattanooga nets $500K federal grant for Nashville-to-Atlanta Amtrak planning

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(The Center Square) – Chattanooga is set to receive $500,000 in federal funds to study and create a comprehensive plan to develop Amtrak passenger rail service on existing lines from Nashville to Atlanta through Chattanooga.

The funds come from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Corridor ID program and allows Chattanooga to develop a plan for the scope, engineering and full requirements of making the Amtrak route reality.

“This is a huge step forward for an idea we’ve been pushing for from City Hall since Day 1 of my administration. Passenger rail is an important piece of the multimodal mobility goals we’ve laid out, and this award shows the broad support for and momentum behind our vision of reconnecting us to other major Southern cities by bringing passenger rail back to Chattanooga,” Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly said in the announcement.

The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations asked the Tennessee Department of Transportation to move forward to determine the cost and engineering of adding that rail service in a July report.

Amtrak announced a 2035 plan to bring service back to Nashville. Nashville last had Amtrak service in 1979, when the Floridian running from Chicago to Miami discontinued service due to poor ridership.

The state currently has one line of Amtrak service daily on a route between Chicago and New Orleans that stops in both Memphis and Newbern-Dyersburg.

“It takes two or three hours to drive from Nashville to Chattanooga, Knoxville or Memphis today,” the report said. “But what if traffic added an hour to each of those trips — the equivalent of extending your drive from Nashville to Knoxville up to Greeneville — and what if that three- to four-hour trip was the new norm?”

The first step of the process also requires Chattanooga to develop a capacity plan for staff, contractors and financial backing that is not federal.

The city will work with the Federal Railroad Administration to develop a scope, schedule and cost estimate for the plan.

“There aren’t many places in America whose history is as closely tied to rail travel as Chattanooga’s, and today’s announcement is a promising sign that the railroad will continue to be an important part of our future,” Kelly said. “I’m very thankful for the bipartisan support of our federal delegation, from the mayors of Nashville and Atlanta, and for the many partners and tremendous amount of work that went into submitting our successful application for this grant.”

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