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Atlanta Takes Key Step In Expanding Streetcar System

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Transportation officials now expect the Atlanta Streetcar's initial 2.7-mile loop to open sometime in May, as opposed to April, as was previously expected. But that's not the biggest streetcar news of the week: The city was recently named a Federal Transit Administration grant designee. That means, for the first time, Atlanta will be able to apply directly for federal funding — instead of relying on MARTA to apply on its behalf — when it comes time to expand the streetcar system, WABE reports. With T-SPLOST's bludgeoning at the polls last year, officials say federal funding is crucial for developing a more extensive streetcar network. About half of the current streetcar project's $100 million bill is being footed by the feds.

In a WABE interview, Atlanta's senior transportation policy advisor Tom Weyandt said the new designation gives the city the legal authority to seek grants, but it doesn't mean federal dollars for a streetcar expansion are automatic. The designation should grease the wheels, at least. Weyandt said studies for a streetcar expansion should be finished in 18 months to two years, after which he envisions the system extending east and west, ultimately linking with the Beltline.

When the streetcar loop begins service, all rides will be free for the first three months. Officials have said the 2.7-mile route will have 12 stops and an estimated 15 minutes between trains. After the free-ride period, rides will cost just $1 for a while, until MARTA upgrades its Breeze Card system to accommodate the light-rail route. A project leader also noted recently that traffic lights along the route will be adjusted, in hopes of keeping the streetcar from being mired in congestion.

· Atlanta Eyes Federal Funds For Streetcar Expansion [WABE]
· Planner Offers Checklist For ATL Streetcar's Success [Curbed Atlanta]
· Recent streetcar coverage [Curbed Atlanta]