now a key issue in rail passenger line
Gov. Roy Barnes decided
not to fund design and right-of-way acquisition for the top-priority
Macon-Atlanta high speed rail passenger line this year. Nor to request
funding for the equally high-priority Atlanta-Athens commuter rail
line, nor for the initial purchase of trains.
Could that have
been meant partly as a message to the three agencies involved in
the projects: "Get your act together and work in concert?"
are the Department of Transportation, the Georgia Rail Passenger
Authority and the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority. When
differences over which would run the show delayed preliminary studies
of the Macon route, the governor appointed two board members from
each of the agencies to a Project Management Team for the Georgia
Rail Passenger Program .
He also named Walter
"Sonny" Deriso as chairman. The Columbus-based banker
is a GRTA board member. That indicated which agency would be more
equal than the others in overseeing the $1.5 billion program to
build and operate six commuter-rail lines and seven intercity lines.
The board has already
directed the agencies' staffs to open negotiations on using existing
tracks for the Atlanta-Macon link and others. But a Barnes spokesperson
said Wednesday that the governor wanted to be sure the three agencies
were indeed working together (before buying right of way and rolling
stock for specific routes).
Right of way for
the Macon line wasn't to be bought until mid-2001 anyhow, so that
funding can wait. But it is important to order trains on time if
the 2004 opening date is not to be delayed. It's a 30-month process
from purchase to operation.
could go ahead and fund the projects. And a strong passenger-rail
champion, Rep. Terry Coleman of Eastman, chairs the House Appropriations
and two colleagues are preparing legislation detailing the long-range,
state-wide structure of the system. (A similar plan in the mid-1980s
legislated the system of developmental highways now in process.)
It is meant to rally statewide support for statewide service according
to rational priorities. It might also motivate support for funding
the projects this year.
We applaud Coleman's
approach to committing the big rail passenger picture to law. We
hope he will also do whatever is needed to assure that the Macon-Atlanta
link, in particular, receives the funding it needs to be up and
running by the target year of 2004.
Corson /For the editorial board
sucking life out of oversight panel
Mayor Jack Ellis
expresses appropriate concerns over the effectiveness of a citizens
oversight committee on the roads program. It appears somebody needs
to exercise some oversight on some of the citizens officially serving
who don't bother to make the meetings. The mayor, who has the authority
to appoint five of the committee's 13 members, has taken on that
Last Thursday only
six members showed up.
Attendance, or the
lack of it, would seem to reflect some disenchantment over the committee's
lack of clout, or perhaps it has more to do with the inconvenient
2 p.m. meeting time. CAUTION Macon members on the committee have
complained about both. But it is not clear why apathy exists to
such an extent, especially on an issue so volatile as the roads
program has proved to be. On a panel charged to monitor and analyze
the program, this should not be boring work.
But if serving has
become so meaningless to some members that they can't be bothered
to show up at meetings, those people should have left long ago.
Ellis and his staff will be pointedly asking if they wish to continue
to serve. We would hope non-participating (for whatever reason)
members would voluntarily vacate rather than disguising themselves
as empty chairs.
We don't know if
filling vacancies with CAUTION Macon members (as the mayor may do)
would help or not. Given that group's dedication more such members
might energize the board; it would almost certainly help attendance.
But CAUTION is an advocacy group and perhaps shouldn't be over-represented.
Yet, something has
to give. Otherwise this entire committee is just one big empty chair.
R.L. Day/For the editorial board