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Atlanta's second airport -- in Columbus?

4:58 PM, Jun 7, 2012   |    comments
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Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson (Photo: http://www.columbusga.org/mayor/)

ATLANTA, Ga. -- Gwinnett County's commissioners let everyone know, loud and clear, on Tuesday, that they will not allow Atlanta's long-discussed second, commercial airport with regularly scheduled passenger service to be located at Gwinnett County's Briscoe Field.

Atlanta's own Hartsfield-Jackson airport will soon be busting at the seams. The FAA has said Hartsfield-Jackson will be at capacity by the year 2025.

And there is not much room for the airport to expand easily, hemmed in as it is by three interstate highways.

Atlanta is one of the few major U.S. cities without a second major airport.

So where would a second airport go?

There is a city that wants to be the site of Atlanta's second airport.

The City of Columbus is already developing a plan to try to make it happen, using a new, high-speed rail connection.

It was only last year when the City of Atlanta studied all the possible locations for a second airport, and narrowed the list down to just a few of the existing, smaller airports, all in the north metro area -- including Gwinnett County's Briscoe Field.

The City of Atlanta concluded that none of those locations would work, financially.

And yet the study also agreed with the FAA, that Atlanta will soon need expanded airport capacity to keep up with demand and remain competitive in the world.

On Wednesday, 11Alive News talked with the Mayor of Columbus, Teresa Tomlinson, who is busy planning for a high-speed passenger rail between her city's airport, and Hartsfield-Jackson, so the Columbus airport could be transformed into Atlanta's second airport, only an hour apart on the high-speed rail.

A feasibility study should be complete by the Fall of 2013.

Mayor Tomlinson sees the high-speed rail connection as an economic boon to both cities, with state-wide benefits far beyond aviation.

Well we certainly would like to help Atlanta solve its problem related to having a second airport. As you know, Columbus is about 90 miles southwest of Atlanta. We do have an airport. We have commercial airliners here, Delta and American Airlines, currently. We have had up to five different carriers at different times. And so we are, of course, ready and available to handle that type of air traffic.

One of the things we're looking at right now is the passenger rail, from Columbus to Atlanta. We are on the Georgia Department of Transportation passenger rail system, and we are currently in the process of putting out a Request for Proposal to various planning groups for a feasibility study on a fast rail, passenger rail, from Columbus to Atlanta, which we hope would cut down the commute time to more like an hour.

I think that's a very viable possibility, literally connecting the two airports with passenger rail.

We've moved quite quickly.... We have already found the $360,000 for the study.... We expect to have the feasibility study completed in the fall of 2013. After that it becomes a funding issue. We believe we'll be eligible for federal funds.... There are also some bond opportunities for funding, and we're looking at some creative ways that we might be able to jump to the head of the pack.

It's really not about selling tickets, it's not about people coming from Columbus to Atlanta to watch a Braves game, as wonderful as that might be, it is about connecting economic resources. And so what we look at is connecting our medical communities, connecting our aviation resources.... connecting our higher-education systems. So when you start looking at connecting your economic development resources, the billions and billions of dollars that that is -- of course Atlanta being the largest market for jobs in the state, but Columbus being right there at Number Two or Number Three --what a fantastic thing it would be for the state if we could connect, through fast passenger rail, the two cities, and our two bushels of economic resources. It would be a tremendous catalyst for the entire state.

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