Georgia Agrees to Lease Extension for Western & Atlantic

ATLANTA — The state of Georgia and CSX have agreed to a 50-year lease extension of the Western & Atlantic Railroad, according to published reports.

CSX, which assumed the lease from a predecessor line, is expected to pay the state of Georgia at least $1.2 billion over the next 50 years to lease the line between Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tenn., The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The state of Georgia chartered the line in December 1836 and has leased it since 1870. CSX or its predecessors have leased the route since 1890.

The lease has a provision for commuter rail to run along the corridor, though the prospect for commuter trains on the line is not imminent. However, the contract has a prohibition on high-speed rail, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

“You still have to spend some money on building tracks because it’s not double track the entire distance,” the Marietta Daily Journal quoted state Rep. Teri Anulewicz, D-Smyrna, as saying. “I think it’s important to remember that the state reserving the right to have passenger rail is very different from them saying ‘there is going to be passenger rail.’ We’re dealing with a lot of hypotheticals, but having that option there is more than what we had a week ago.”

In addition, CSX agreed to sell 2.3 miles of unused rail corridor to the state for $10. The state plans to use the land to extend the Silver Comet Trail, a rails-to-trails path built on the former Seaboard Air Line between Atlanta and Birmingham, Ala.

During the Civil War, the Western & Atlantic Railroad was the scene of the Great Locomotive Chase.

Railfanning Review Podcast