We need more of this ‘small’ thinking

Now, take away the trucks ...

Now, take away the trucks …

Here’s a sentence I don’t get to write very often: Atlanta got some good news from Chatsworth today. From my AJC colleague Greg Bluestein’s story about the announcement that a new inland port will be built up in Murray County:

“The Appalachian Regional Port, which is to open in 2018, will provide a direct 388-mile rail route from northwest Georgia to Savannah’s bustling port. The 42-acre site is being pitched to manufacturers in Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky as a ‘powerful new gateway’ to one of the East Coast’s busiest terminals. … The 42-acre site is lodged in the middle of an industrial belt teeming with carpet and flooring manufacturers. Curtis Foltz, who heads the Georgia Port Authority, said the facility will move 50,000 containers each year to the coast — thus keeping 50,000 tractor-trailers off congested roads in Atlanta.”

Carpet makers aren’t the only ones who will benefit. Chatsworth’s inland port should also be an attractive option to the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga and its nearby suppliers, among other manufacturers. According to the Ports Authority’s website, the plan is to double the inland port’s capacity within 10 years of its opening, meaning as many as 100,000 trucks could be off the road by the end of the next decade. That’d be about 275 trucks a day off the I-75 corridor through metro Atlanta, which won’t solve our traffic problems but should be seen as a piece of the solution.

A couple of caveats are in order. The railroad line in question already faces a severe bottleneck at Howell Junction in northwest Atlanta, where it crosses a busy Norfolk-Southern line. Also, that line is the one I mentioned just yesterday as a possible corridor for commuter rail connecting cities in Cobb County to Atlanta. A draft of the state’s new rail plan contemplates options for unclogging the bottleneck, from a grade separation of the two lines to ease freight traffic on the lines to a freight bypass of Howell Junction that would send cargo elsewhere while creating new passenger capacity. The draft plan calls for a study of those options; I won’t prejudge the outcome, except to say doing nothing isn’t an option.

All that said, the strategy of making relatively small, targeted improvements — the new inland port is projected to cost the state $10 million, Murray County $1 million, the Ports Authority $7.5 million and CSX $5.5 million, or $24 million in all — so that we can make better use of our existing infrastructure is a sound one that we should look to replicate whenever and wherever it makes sense. Consider that tractor-trailers, like the ones that won’t be traveling long stretches of I-75 (and I-16) thanks to this port, cause the most damage to our roads, and that the state spends $230,000 per lane mile just to repave an interstate — meaning it couldn’t repave even an eight-mile stretch of six-lane I-75 for the cost of its contribution to this project. These kinds of projects don’t just save on maintenance costs but on construction costs, too, to the extent they help avoid the need for new builds. We need more of this kind of thinking.

Reader Comments 0

22 comments
Wascatlady
Wascatlady

More crap to put big tractor trailers on our quiet, 2 laned mtn roads!

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

Yep, rail should be a good option for moving goods.  It's a bit slower than truck, but the cost is cheaper. 


Part of the big bottlenecks in the mornings are the big rigs going slowly on hills in traffic and entrance/exit ramps around 285.  Getting more of them off the roads will be good for Atlanta. 


So, expand the rail right of way to get rid of rail bottlenecks, and also expand rail to use for mass transit.  Why some people can't see that both are good for area roadways is beyond me. 


M H Smith
M H Smith

Doing small things is doing something, though, once they are done they never seems to amount to very much. Meanwhile the comprehensive solution will sit ideal so will the needs for transportation mobility.

Oh, just couldn't help  but notice whose house district resides next to that area Kyle - None other than the State House Speaker David Ralston. hmmm


lvg
lvg

next step-  trucks need to off 285 completely 

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@lvg That would take a Northern Arc and a governor to push for it. 

MANGLER
MANGLER

@LogicalDude I read last year where Gwinette, Fulton, and Forsyth Counties are looking into transforming McGinnis Ferry at 85 into an interchange and upgrading McF all the way over to 400 as a first leg of a Northern Arc.  Perhaps turning parts of it into something similar to Peachtree Industrial in Norcross.  The local NIMBY's balked of course, but they're putting ideas out there.

straker
straker

This is a good idea if and ONLY if it is all the powers that be say it is and is not just some port barrel project designed to get votes and line some politician's pocket.


This is Georgia, after all.

PudHead
PudHead

How about better mass transit, MARTA trains from Dawsonville to Macon, and Savanah to Douglasville….I wonder how many cars that would remove from rush hour…

1Robert
1Robert

@PudHead Shouldn't you know the answer if you are proposing a few billion in rail lines ?

draggingcanoe
draggingcanoe

They couldn't have chosen a more inappropriate location to put this.  It's equivalent to putting a hog lot next to the governor's mansion on W. Paces Ferry Rd. The location they chose is in the foothills of the majestic Cohutta Mountains, in a pristine and undeveloped section of Northern Murray County, that's literally just five miles west of the boundary of the Cohutta Wilderness.The panoramic view shed they're destroying rivals any found in Georgia. The prevailing winds will carry the particulates spewed from tens of thousands of diesel engines and deposit them in the watershed of the most pristine stream in the Eastern U.S.; the Conasauga River, that has fish species found nowhere else on the planet. The two lane rural roads in this picturesque setting will be converted into clogged corridors for truck traffic, and it won't just affect Murray County. The north-bound slow-moving, lumbering trucks will be disrupting traffic through school zones and small hamlets all over northern Whitfield, and Polk and Bradley counties in Tennessee, and the south bound trucks will be doing the same in Gordon and Bartow counties, as they make the unnecessary long treks to I-75. This could have just as easily been located in any number of places adjacent to I-75, where it would have no impact. To call this a triumph for the environment is beyond ridiculous. The numbers of people who will be negatively impacted by this will dwarf the handful of people who will be employed in Murray County. It will be a nightmare. Did anyone apply any thought whatsoever to this? Is there some hidden alternative motive for compromising one of the state's most desirable areas?

WilJohnson
WilJohnson

There is nothing small about this thinking. It just happens to be a small part of regional rail planning that has been going on for years without a Governor or Legislature with the vision to act on it.  The Savannah Port improvements demanded it, and Savannah to Atlanta improved rail plans have been available for years.  Also Atlanta-Louisville, Atlanta- Birmingham and Atlanta-Jacksonville.


This is big thinking, which is exactly what Atlanta needs.

TheRealJDW
TheRealJDW

275 trucks...well that will keep up with the growth in traffic for what...5 minutes? Problem with "small thinking" is small solutions. Unfortunately we have big problems.

O' well I am sure if we ignore them they will go away. Movies anyone?

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

I don't think it will work out,  we will see.

Kerry_James
Kerry_James

Money will flow from this project for years to come. Good revenue stream for the area and State should it reach fruition. How many trucks this will divert from the certain sections of the highways is a small blessing for someone.    

Caius
Caius

Thanks for the heads up.  I would not have picked up on this plan.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

As someone who lives about 25 miles from Chatsworth, I can say that one man's treat is another mans poison.  Great idea to get trucks off Atlanta's interstates and put them on two lane north Georgia highways.  Funny that some days sprawl is the problem, some days sprawl is the answer.  It as always depends on whose Ox is being gored.


I'm sure they will build a big road from 75 to take the traffic, but as it gets crowded, those drivers will seek alternatives, especially when leaving this port..  There is a paucity of  roads going east and west across north Georgia, so the highways 20, 140, and 53  are clogged now with truck traffic. 


I know Atlanta needs the congestion relief and am hoping this works, north Georgia can sure use the jobs, and using the railroad assets makes sense, but as for gridlock reduction, it just seems we will just be moving the congestion to areas not equipped for it.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@RafeHollister I don't know exactly where the inland port will be, other than "near 411." It's a fairly straight, four-laned shot from I-75 at Rocky Face across the Dalton bypass and Ga. 52 to Chatsworth ... a lot of trucks are on that road already, they just might be headed in the other direction now. (Also, I wonder if this is at least part of the reason for that interminable rebuilding of the Rocky Face exit at 75.)

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

I think it is great and I also like the logic of small thinking. But having just come back from Spain I saw some big ideas that I like. Investment in Arts and Science with cool buildings a modern pavilion and a linear park on an old river bed. And a train that went from Madrid to Valencia in an hour and forty five minutes. That train could make Atlanta to Savannah in an hour and thirty minutes.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JeffreyEav Get enough done with small projects, and there's more money left for the big ones ...

Dusty2
Dusty2

OOOh yes, Kyle, keep those choo choos moving on new tracks.  It does sound good.  If it can take a bunch of big trucks off the roads, it should be worth the money. It even sounds thrifty!


I hope this one goes somewhere besides off the drawing board.