Light rail, proposed solution to road problems

By Jeanie Powell - bio | email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - A new concept introduced to the North Alabama Transportation Foundation is being called an answer to our transportation issues by this month's featured speaker.

The Huntsville man is proposing light rail as a solution.

This was the first time the foundation, who meets monthly, had a speaker who focused on this subject.

With BRAC needs staring us in the face every day, Doug Gooch, a builder and concerned citizen, believes light rail is the way to go.

After spending 20 years in Orlando, he said he doesn't want to see the same thing happen to Huntsville.

"You live by turnpike or by toll road," Gooch said, referring to Orlando.

He says we have the ability to reuse railroad beds that were constructed back in 1941 and we don't have right of way issues.

Gooch said the immediate need begins with Redstone Arsenal and this mass transit system won't be a sprint, but a marathon that would pay off.

But WAFF 48 News asked him how would we pay for it.

Gooch said public-private partnerships is the funding source.

He said private companies are willing to spend private money to fund these issues and that fortunately, the Obama administration is supportive of mass transit systems.

"We can take one out of five cars out on the road and put them onto a rail and let them ride to work without having to sit in traffic jams, without having road rage," Good said.  "You come to work calm."

After Redstone is tackled, Gooch says the second leg would likely connect the airport to Research Park.

Next is UA Huntsville, followed by the Von Braun Civic Center, and finally the north-south leg, connecting Alabama A&M University to Ditto Landing.

NATF Chairman Cory Brown met with the Tennessee Valley Authority Caucus in Montgomery last week about transportation issues we face.

He said the meeting went well.

"They wanted to see more numbers for income transfers that end up going from the North Alabama area down into the Wiregrass, Pinebelt, and Black Belt area," Brown said.  "We do a great deal to help fund their schools and we're trying to point out to the preventatives and senators down there that we're the golden goose sending them the money and for BRAC, we need them to help feed the golden goose."

From here, members are anxiously awaiting the outcome of a Transportation Commission Bill introduced in the Alabama legislature by Valley lawmakers that would oversee the Department of Transportation, transportation projects, and improvement plans.

Brown says in a couple weeks, a group of engineers and architects will go back down to Montgomery to meet with ALDOT and the caucus to see how we can get services for roads that need to be built to help us accommodate BRAC.

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