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ATL Streetcar: Boondoggle or Visionary Project?

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The first segment of the Atlanta Streetcar, a 2.7-mile loop linking the Centennial Olympic Park area to the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic site, has been a polarizing project. Viewpoints seem to lie in one of two camps: The first believes the streetcar is a rather worthless, expensive pork project that links nowhere to nowhere and does nothing to cure Atlanta's traffic disease; conversely, others feel the loop is merely the first planted seed, a vision boosted by federal cash, in what could become a pulsing network of light-rail activity across the city. Atlanta city boosters and officials obviously fall in the latter camp, Mayor Kasim Reed the chief cheerleader among them. And they're starting to put their energy where their mouth is.

Tom Weyandt, senior transportation policy advisor for the City of Atlanta, told the Saporta Report this week that despite the epic failure of T-SPLOST, the city is continuing to pursue other funding options (as in, public-private partnerships) and is putting measures in place to build more transit. In fact, the website reports, the city plans to hire a director of streetcars, and is applying to become a grantee of the Federal Transit Administration — a move that would allow city leaders to apply directly for federal grants. Said Weyandt: "We are actively looking at what the next (streetcar) phases will be and what the next corridor will be ? We actually can control our own fate here. We own virtually all the right of way."

First things first. A significant number of kinks are being worked out with the initial loop's construction, as the project has run aground on numerous subterranean utilities. The snafus can be blamed, in part, on the project's "design-build" status, which is exactly what it sounds like. The scheduled debut of streetcar service has been knocked back about six months to spring or early summer 2014, the Saporta Report writes. Expect to see actual tracks make a return to Atlanta's streets in the next couple of months.

· Ups and downs of Atlanta Streetcar project due to reintroducing transit [Saporta Report]