In the News

Rail Possibilities " Article 7

This is the seventh in a series of articles about the visions developed for Early County during the recent charrette planning process held by Early County 2055. This week is part two of a look at transportation ideas that were developed.

The PlaceMakers' John M. Acken Jr. and Sr. developed a transportation study during the charette which provides insight into the area's transportation infrastructure. Their report includes 18 strategies for possible ways to utilize that infrastructure in the development of Early County's future.

The study begins with an overview of the region's transportation background which was reviewed in the June 28 Early County News. This week...

A shift to rail passenger service will lag behind freight shipments and not be realized for another fifteen to thirty years. The State of Georgia is already anticipating a shift in transportation and has planned multiple future rail passenger routes. It is also purchasing hundreds of miles of abandoned track. The report explains how investment in transportation infrastructure will stimulate growth, encourage new jobs, attract business and improve the overall quality of life of the residents of Early County.

Transload Facility
The Ackens' first strategy sprouted from the looming closing of the Maverick Tubing facility on the river near Cedar Springs. It should be noted that since the May charrette the company has announced Maverick Tubing will remain in operation.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Early County has an overabundance of transportation capacity. While Early County is not served by a major interstate, it does, have an exceptionally strong rail infrastructure. It is served by rail lines owned by an independent carrier, the State of Georgia, and two class I railroads - CSX and Norfolk Southern.

Although rail service is usually limited to high volume shippers located near a rail line, a Transload facility would allow all Early County shippers to benefit from the county's extensive rail network.

A Transload facility is a location for the trans-shipment of products between different modes of transportation. The facility serves as a single transfer point between rail, truck and/or barge lines allowing those shippers not physically located next to a rail line to benefit from rail's reduced long haul rates. Products for transfer can range from peanut oil to lumber to waste crank case oil.

East/West Rail Line

Strategy #2 recommends that Early County begin the process for developing the rail line between Dothan and Albany as a potential east west passenger rail corridor.

As energy prices increase, there will be a shift from highway to rail for interstate transportation. Currently the state of Georgia has long term plans to provide passenger rail service from Atlanta to Albany and Tallahassee which will connect to a high speed line from Jacksonville Fla. to Mobile, Ala. and beyond.

Furthermore, as Dothan and Albany continue to grow, connecting the two MSAs via Blakely will help stimulate growth in Early County.

For the state of Georgia to expand services. The next step would be to continue the service to Arlington and eventually to Albany to tie in with the planned rail service from Atlanta to Albany. Both the Albany and Dothan airports are less than three quarters of a mile from existing rail lines; therefore, rail service into those two cities could link to the airports allowing Blakely residents access to the airports without having to drive to either Dothan or Albany and allowing for air freight to be moved by rail. Use Norfolk/Southern

Roadrailers

Roadrailers are a rail service unique to Norfolk Southern. They are specially designed highway trailers which can ride directly on railroad trucks (wheels plus bolsters), but can also move over highways behind conventional tractors.

Like any truck operation, roadrailers usually require a backhaul meaning that the trailers would have to be utilized both inbound and outbound. The roadrailers could run over highways to nearest roadrailer facility. One potential use might be for moving outbound peanuts. Inbound materials currently being trucked to the Georgia Pacific plant provide a backhaul. There are no infrastructure costs associated with this recommendation.

Rail Access and Warehouses in Industrial Park

Many industrial parks construct rail sidings and warehouses to attract potential customers interested in locating in a community.

This strategy has potential to attract industry and add employment. Improving rail access would take advantage of existing rail infrastructure and reduce the need to expand highway capacity.

The reporter notes this initiative requires allocation of funds to complete work in the Early County Industrial Park, and that the outlay of funds may well not produce immediate results. Facilities often remain vacant for extended periods.

Chattahoochee Flyer and Damascus Town Center

This strategy requires the acquisition of a small collection of vintage passenger train equipment consisting of locomotives, baggage car, coaches, diner and Pullman.

This equipment would be maintained and displayed

at the new Early County Historical Village and museum adjacent to the covered bridge on the east bank of the Chattahoochee. (see strategy # 13) It would be available for excursion service, motion picture production and occasional demonstration runs between Blakely and Dothan or Arlington/ Damascus.

An authentic replica train station would be constructed at Damascus to serve as a new town hall, police station and community center along with a wye for turning the train. This station would also serve as a location for movie production. The recently refurbished Arlington station, could also serve as a filming location.

The vintage train would preserve and interpret an essential part of Early County's railroad heritage. The Damascus station would provide a focal point and town center for Damascus.

To learn more about the visions for Early County which were developed during the charrette, visit www.earlycounty2055.com.

Next week: More about how PlaceMakers see transportation shaping Early County's future.

To view this article online, click here.

updated: 9 years ago