It was a reality that forced its hand on MARTA’s big picture expansion plans - inflation and higher, often unexpected costs. On Wednesday, the agency unveiled a tighter list of projects that puts a focus on a handful that can be delivered in the next few years.
“The idea of spreading that peanut butter too thin and trying to get a little bit done in every area, was serving no one. The delay was palpable,” MARTA general manager and CEO Collie Greenwood told the Atlanta City Council’s Transportation Committee.
MARTA reshuffled its projects to place a few into a Tier-1, to be funded by nearly $2 billion in spending. “These are the focused nine projects that have garnered our attention because of the ability to have them completed by 2028,” said Greenwood.
Others were dropped into a Tier-2 to be postponed until 2035 or later.
The priority projects include three bus rapid transit lines, a remake of the Five Points bus/rail station, and the Atlanta Streetcar east light rail extension - a project with vocal opposition from many residents near the Beltline and Old Fourth Ward.
Greenwood said the streetcar is close to the final design stage. As for that vocal opposition to it, “MARTA continues to meet with stakeholders to discuss and address concerns where possible as the project moves forward.”
Of the nine projects now on the priority list, one is currently under construction - Summerhill BRT (bus rapid transit). Four others are headed for final design stage, with another four in the conceptual design stage.
That was a point of contention with council/committee member Marci Collier Overstreet during Wednesday’s meeting. She said there exists a great need for that service now for the population along the Campbellton Road corridor. “I am still floored that we’re not past, not even 30% design for Campbellton Road.”
Greenwood responded, “I can promise you that we’re moving as quickly as we can on Campbellton Road. I almost hear you saying that that’s great, but relative to the other projects, you think it should be further ahead. The only way for me to do that is to slow down on the other projects.”
Committee chair Amir Farokhi weighed-in on the Five Points project to say he was “underwhelmed” by the plans for it. Said Greenwood, “My vision for Five Points that we’ve shared broadly is that it’s a modernized center hub. It’s going to inspire a lot of private investment in the area.”
Projects on the priority list and those postponed until later will be funded by proceeds from a half-penny sales tax that Atlanta voters approved in 2016.
It has been reported that a former official with MARTA said the agency has been dealing with a shortfall of $1 billion in its expansion program.
MARTA says public information sessions on the priority project list are forthcoming, with its board of directors expected to vote on the list in April.
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