Atlanta

Amtrak seeking nearly $30M to build intercity rail hub station in downtown Atlanta

ATLANTA — As part of their latest fiscal year report, Amtrak announced they’re seeking almost $30 million to upgrade their Atlanta operation by building a new intercity rail hub station in downtown Atlanta.

The report says that ridership has increased back to pre-pandemic levels and beyond, with overall levels expected to reach close to 35 million people in fiscal year 2025. However, a growing user base means that Amtrak needs to make upgrades, according to CEO Stephen Gardner.

“While we’re proud of the service we provide today, we know we have more to accomplish and many areas in need of improvement. Whether by connecting more people and more places across America or by upgrading passengers’ experience on our trains and in our stations, all of us at Amtrak are focused on modernizing our services and network to meet the needs of the nation,” Gardner said at the beginning of the report.

Diving into the Atlanta specifics, Amtrak is requesting a federal grant to build a new intercity passenger rail hub station, as well as the supporting infrastructure.

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The report says the infrastructure investments would include separated tracks for both passenger service and freight operations, each running independently.

Part of the need for an upgrade is also based on the current Atlanta station’s age. The report notes the station in Atlant was built in 1918 “as a suburban station designed to accommodate a small number of passengers.”

The current Amtrak station, due to how it was originally built, “features an undersized waiting room; no parking; poor access to its single platform from the station building above, which is a particular challenge for disabled passengers; and a lack of connectivity to local transit options.”

In order to better meet the needs of its passengers, Amtrak wants to create a new, modern station to serve customers on the Crescent route, linking Atlanta to New Orleans, Birmingham, Charlotte, Washington and New York City.

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Amtrak’s report says that if they’re able to build a rail hub in the right location and pair it with congestion-relieving infrastructure, a new Atlanta station could make it a hub for intercity passenger trains that would connect both major cities and small communities across the Southeast United States.

To explain the nearly $30 million request, Amtrak provided the following project details.

For Fiscal Year 2025, Amtrak is requesting $29.9 million for planning work and the acquisition of key property currently at risk of development.

For the life of the initiative, Amtrak said an estimated $700 million would be needed for longer-term construction of a new intercity passenger rail hub station in downtown Atlanta, as well as the accompanying infrastructure.

As proposed, the Atlanta Hub would eventually connect downtown Atlanta to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Macon, Savannah, Chattanooga, Tenn., Nashville, Tenn., Memphis, Tenn., Greenville, S.C., Charlotte, N.C., Birmingham, Ala., Meridian, Miss., and New Orleans, La., among others.

The exact set of destinations depends on corridor development and federal investment, according to the Amtrak document.

If the roughly $30 million is approved for FY2025, Amtrak said the funding could support multiple early-phase activities, such as preliminary engineering work and securing project clearances required by federal law.

Amtrak would also use the funding to buy properties that could be developed in the near future in order to preserve railroad right-of-way for the future Hub station site.

Expressing hope for the project in Atlanta, and others across the country, Gardner said “the impacts of these generational improvements will be immense, not just for our transportation network, but for jobs and the economy as well. We and our partners are finally tackling big challenges that have gone unaddressed for decades; with patience, steadiness, and continued federal support, we will deliver these complex capital projects and enhance or expand service across the country.”

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