An Amtrak hub at the Gulch? Atlanta councilman wants to see it happen

A rendering of the "Centennial Yards" development plan downtown. (Courtesy/CIM Group)

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A rendering of the "Centennial Yards" development plan downtown. (Courtesy/CIM Group)

As construction continues at the swath of land known as the “Gulch” downtown, one Atlanta city councilman is encouraging Amtrak and developers to consider building a train hub on the site.

Located near State Farm Arena and Mercedes Benz Stadium, the Gulch is currently a sea of parking lots and rail lines below street level. Developers from the CIM Group plan to turn the land into “Centennial Yards,” a $5 billion project with retail, food, office, housing and entertainment options.

Councilman Jason Dozier, who was elected last year and represents the area, introduced a resolution recently urging Amtrak and CIM to consider the possibility of building a rail hub there as Amtrak considers expansion plans in the Southeast.

“The city of Atlanta is uniquely positioned to be a centerpiece in Amtrak’s larger expansion plans,” Dozier said.

Amtrak last year presented an ambitious long-term vision that would connect Atlanta to Savannah, Nashville and Montgomery by passenger rail. Earlier this year, the Georgia Department of Transportation got $8 million in federal funds to study the Atlanta-Savannah link.

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Amtrak hopes to expand service through Atlanta and across the country.

Credit: Amtrak/

Amtrak hopes to expand service through Atlanta and across the country.

Credit: Amtrak/

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Amtrak hopes to expand service through Atlanta and across the country.

Credit: Amtrak/

Credit: Amtrak/

A passenger rail station isn’t currently part of Centennial Yards’ publicly released plans, but Dozier hopes the resolution starts the conversation between the city, developers and Amtrak. The measure, which could be passed in the next two weeks, also invites Amtrak to present and answer questions about its expansion plans.

“We wanted to make sure that Amtrak knew that the city of Atlanta wanted to receive their support and their federal investment in passenger rail service,” Dozier said, adding that increasing regional train ridership would help offset the impacts of climate change and reduce traffic.

A spokeswoman for Amtrak declined to comment, and CIM Group officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

Amtrak currently has a small Atlanta station off Peachtree Street just north of I-85; it serves one line, with trains stopping once a day in each direction.

If Amtrak ends up with a station at Centennial Yards, it wouldn’t be the first time the area is home to train hub. For 65 years, Atlantans took trains in and out of Terminal Station, located downtown where the Richard B. Russell Federal Building now stands. One of the lines took passengers between Savannah and Atlanta, which has a history as a major rail terminus.

The station, built in 1905, was torn down in 1970.

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A 1930s view of Atlanta's Terminal Station. Architecture critics complained that Terminal Station's original symmetry and 'cathedral image' were ruined when, just before World War II, the two ornated and columned 100-foot towers were whacked down to 65 feet. Terminal Station, built in 1905, was demolished to make way for the Richard B. Russell building. In the lower right corner sits a statue of Samuel Spencer, the first president of Southern Railway, who died in 1906. The statue is now at the Norfolk Southern corporation building on Peachtree Street.

Credit: COPY

A 1930s view of Atlanta's Terminal Station. Architecture critics complained that Terminal Station's original symmetry and 'cathedral image' were ruined when, just before World War II, the two ornated and columned 100-foot towers were whacked down to 65 feet. Terminal Station, built in 1905, was demolished to make way for the Richard B. Russell building. In the lower right corner sits a statue of Samuel Spencer, the first president of Southern Railway, who died in 1906. The statue is now at the Norfolk Southern corporation building on Peachtree Street.

Credit: COPY

Combined ShapeCaption
A 1930s view of Atlanta's Terminal Station. Architecture critics complained that Terminal Station's original symmetry and 'cathedral image' were ruined when, just before World War II, the two ornated and columned 100-foot towers were whacked down to 65 feet. Terminal Station, built in 1905, was demolished to make way for the Richard B. Russell building. In the lower right corner sits a statue of Samuel Spencer, the first president of Southern Railway, who died in 1906. The statue is now at the Norfolk Southern corporation building on Peachtree Street.

Credit: COPY

Credit: COPY

Construction at the first portion of the 50-acre Centennial Yards site, which will include a mix of apartments, office space, retail and a brewery, kicked off last year.

The project got the green light with an incentive package that could equal about $1.9 billion in bonds and reimbursements, not including interest, through 2048, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in 2018. The deal drew criticism since those tax dollars normally would be paid to the state, city, Fulton County and Atlanta Public Schools. But supporters of the project argued the community benefits that developers agreed to outweigh the public cost.