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Light-Rail Dreams Still Alive for 'Clifton Corridor'

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The dramatic transportation overhaul promised by T-SPLOST is dead, but at least one of the projects included in the proposal — light rail in the so-called "Clifton corridor" — is still plodding along. When metro Atlantans voted down T-SPLOST in 2012, it seemingly dealt a deathblow to the "Clifton Transit Project," which would have received a $700-million slice of the pie to build 8.8 miles of light rail connecting the Lindbergh and Avondale MARTA stations. Supporters, however, will hold two public input meetings next month as part of an attempt to revive a project that would, according to them, offer "commuting options for the tens of thousands employed by Emory, the CDC, Children's Healthcare, DeKalb Medical Center" and other surrounding businesses. It's all part of an environmental impact study that, even if everything goes swimmingly, isn't slated to be released until late 2016 or early 2017.

Three slightly different options are being considered for the rail line, but if it ever becomes a reality, transit service would definitely include the following stops: Cheshire Bridge, Sage Hill, the Emory campus, the CDC, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, the Veteran's Administration Hospital and DeKalb Medical Center. An effort would also be made to swing by the DeKalb Farmer's Market. (Get your Ethiopian coffee on, transit riders!)

Betty Willis, a vice president at Emory University and president of the Clifton Corridor Transportation Management Association, called the area to be served by light rail "one of the largest employment centers in the metro region that is not served" by either MARTA or easy access to an interstate, according to the Emory Report. She estimated the Clifton corridor hosts more than 30,000 employees and nearly 50,000 cars each day. Which would help explain the sludgy traffic.

So what's holding this back?

Funding, naturally. For staters, $700 million is an enormous chunk of change and, even with Willis and the CCTMA vowing to be "heavily engaged" with the 2015 general assembly, it's going to be a grueling mountain to climb. To be eligible for grant funding from a Federal Transportation Administration program called New Starts, a project like this would require the money to be matched locally. One option to make that happen, Willis said, would be a smaller, more local version of the T-SPLOST bill that flopped in 2012 — something that doesn't depend on transit-fearing suburbanites, perhaps?

(For those interested in attending the public meetings: The first will be held Dec. 4 at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, and the second will be Dec. 9 in Room 316 of the Emory Student Acivity and Academic Center. Both are from 6 to 8 p.m.)

— By Curbed Atlanta contributor Tyler Estep

· Effort to bring light rail transit to the Clifton corridor seeks public input [Emory Report]

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