192 miles a day -- that's the distance Sam Macfie drives every day on his commute to work from Macon to Atlanta. In 2007, the Georgia Department of Transportation said it would cost an average of $395 million for a rail infrastructure from Macon to Atlanta. Claire Davis is digging deeper to find out what happened to the rail project and how Central Georgians would benefit.
Sam Macfie walks out his front door in Macon at 6:00 am every day. “I work for Baston-Cook Construction which is headquartered in Atlanta and I'm Vice President of Business Development for their Healthcare Division,” said Macfie.
He makes the 192-mile, round-trip journey Monday through Friday from Macon to Atlanta. “It's about 1 hour and 25 minutes to 1 hour and 35 minutes, door-to-door commute and I've been doing it since early May,” said Macfie.
He says the traffic is like clockwork. “Route 54, 6 miles ahead, all lanes blocked. Great,” he said. “It takes me almost to the minute an hour to get to 285 on the south end,” said Macfie.
In 2007, the Georgia Department of Transportation completed a study on a commuter rail to connect Macon to Atlanta. The estimated cost was nearly $400 million to build. GDOT says for now they don't have a source to fund a new study, which they say is required before any discussions on a new rail system. But Macfie says the transportation line could be useful. “I would say that for some people that want to get work done for their commute to Atlanta that would be very helpful. They could do that on a train, they could do that on a bus, they could do it if they were doing ride-sharing,” said Macfie.
But for him, “I have to have my car when I’m at my job because I’d be going to and from job sites or to prospects, clients and so forth, so I need to have a vehicle and have the flexibility to come and go while I’m at my job I think for,” said Macfie.
Macon-Bibb Mayor Robert Reichert says he's in early discussions with the governor's office and other mayors along the I-75 corridor. “To push an alternative form of transportation so that we don’t rely exclusively on the interstate highway system between second tier cities and Atlanta,” said Reichert.
The first step. “We're trying to get the state of Georgia to identify a project manager,” said Reichert.
But where would the money come from to get the rail up and running? “Federal grants to get a lot of the initial costs,” said Reichert.
Reichert says they're also talking about other sources of funding particularly for upkeep. “Is there a way to have local money in the system? I don't know. Well how would you do that? Well what if we had a tax-allocation district around the station or stop in each community,” said Reichert.
He says there's one route he wants to see the rail travel through. “On the west side of I-75 and runs through Forsyth, Barnesville, Griffin and Hampton and that is the one that we are suggesting,” he said. “I think we’d be smart to plan for the future starting tomorrow,” said Reichert.
For now, Macfie says he’ll continue his day-to-day journey. “I think anybody who does this for a while, they have to really love their job and love the people that they're working with,” said Macfie.
Reichert says there are 5 types of rails ranging in price from $290 million to $2.5 billion. He says the lower end of the spectrum has a 3- to 5-year timeline from the start of construction to being in operation, on the higher end, 10 to 12 years.