Authority pushing for Lovejoy-Atlanta rail

By Billy Corriher

The Georgia Rail Passenger Authority will meet Tuesday morning in Atlanta to discuss a resolution supporting a commuter rail line from Lovejoy to Atlanta. The Department of Transportation's proposal would include stops in Forest Park, Jonesboro and Morrow.

The DOT's plan has received support from Clayton County and many of its municipalities, but Gov. Sonny Perdue has to approve the initiative. If approved, the rail line could be operational by 2006.

Perdue originally dismissed the commuter rail, which was initially designed to run from Macon to Atlanta, when he took office. But the DOT announced two weeks ago that it can begin operating the Clayton County portion of the rail without additional funding.

Doug Alexander, rail manager for the authority, said his organization has not received any indication from the governor's office about whether Perdue will approve the plan.

"We think there won't be any announcement until (Perdue) unveils his budget," he said. Perdue is scheduled to make a speech today on a supplemental budget, but Alexander said he's not sure if he'll address the rail line then.

Alexander said he has received positive feedback from local legislators in Clayton County. The county commissioners and the city of Jonesboro have passed resolutions supporting the DOT's idea, and Alexander said the rail authority will do so on Tuesday.

"We want to be on record for supporting the DOT's Lovejoy rail proposal," he said.

Mayor Chuck Hall will introduce a proposal to pass a similar resolution of support at the Forest Park City Council meeting tonight.

Forest Park City Manager Bill Werner said the city's plan to revitalize Main Street, the Livable Centers Initiative, is awaiting the governor's decision.

"If the commuter rail is going to be on a faster schedule than before?we've got to look at parking and road improvements now," he said.

Jonesboro Mayor Joy Day said her city is also counting on the rail as a crucial element of its LCI plan. Day said the rail would bring many people to downtown Jonesboro and encourage businesses to locate there.

"It would be very convenient for our citizens," she said. "And something has to be done about all this traffic."