Nashville-Chattanooga-Atlanta High Speed Trains Assessment

Study Overview

This application was prepared for TDOT to the Federal Railroad Administration seeking a high-speed rail corridor designation between Nashville-Chattanooga-Atlanta.

In December 2000, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) retained the services of a team consisting of engineering fms ARCADIS and STV Inc. (and others) to develop the Rail Plan for Tennessee. As defined by TDOT, the goal of the plan was to "provide policy, procedural and system management guidance and assist TDOT in its efforts to re-define its role with regard to rail system projects." One of the major tasks of the Rail Plan was to study the potential for intercity passenger rail service in Tennessee. 

Major Findings

Currently, passenger rail service in Tennessee is extremely limited. Though Tennessee has more than 3,000 miles of active rail lines, only 132 miles of track are used by passenger trains. Passenger rail service in Tennessee is completely confined to the western edge of the state where Amtrak's City of New Orleans (Chicago to New Orleans) route provides late-night, daily service to two Tennessee train stations. 

A broad public involvement process paralleled the development of the Rail Plan. This process included a steering committee (Rail System Plan Advisory Committee-RSPAC), which helped provide project input and direction. RSPAC consisted of a variety of elected officials, local and state governmental agencies, Class I railroads, short line railroads, and public interest groups. 

Tennessee recognizes the importance of a strong and viable intercity rail service. The application to extend the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor from Atlanta to Nashville is just one part of a larger planning effort in progress. Eventually, high speed trains could connect the cities of Savannah, Macon, Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Nashville northward to Chicago. Such a network would link the two busiest airports in the United States, enhancing travel security in the Southeast and Midwest. 


The Intercity Passenger Rail component of the Rail Plan (which preceded this application) was completed in early 2003. The results of that report demonstrated that reestablishing passenger rail service in Tennessee could have the following results: 

- Provide a viable and attractive means of intrastate and intercity travel
- Help improve air quality
- Provide an alternative means of transportation for those unable to drive
- Facilitate linkages with other public transport modes
- Enhance statewide economic development opportunities
- Promote tourism throughout the state

That report concluded that the most promising (highest benefit-to-cost ratio) passenger rail corridor in the state was the corridor linking the cities of Nashville to Chattanooga on to Atlanta, with eventual connection from Nashville to Louisville, Kentucky. 





  • Nashville-Chattanooga-Atlanta High Speed Trains Assessment

Completion Date

  • 2003


  • Arcadis

Study Partners

  • TDOT
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