After months of what might have seemed like unrewarding activism, members of advocacy group Beltline Rail Now! are applauding MARTA’s most recent plan to divvy up more than $2.7 billion to expand Atlanta’s transit network.
“Community engagement works,” says a statement sent to Curbed Atlanta from Beltline Rail Now! leader Cathy Woolard.
The proposal will go to a board vote October 4.
The list calls for, among other spending, upwards of $570 million to be earmarked for building light rail transit lines along roughly 15 miles of the Atlanta Beltline.
MARTA’s proposed project list had identified funds for just seven miles. Until today.
Although Beltline Rail Now! advocates have been vying for a full 22-mile loop of light rail along the multi-use trail, the news is being perceived as a victory.
The new list introduces a $200 million plan to install about eight more miles of two-way light rail lines on the northeast, southeast, and western parts of the Beltline.
That would be in addition to the seven miles previously outlined: A three-mile light-rail link from Ponce City Market to the Lindbergh MARTA Station, plus four miles linking the Beltline’s southwestern flank with the Oakland City station. All rail lines would be bidirectional.
The revised recommendations would also cut a considerable amount of funding for the Clifton Corridor light rail project, a transit line that would connect MARTA’s Lindbergh station with Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although the Clifton Corridor—some of which is not located in the City of Atlanta, but DeKalb County—is estimated to cost upwards of $500 million, MARTA’s new list would channel just $350 million to the project.
Emory University President Claire Sterk, in an optimistic statement sent to Curbed, said she was “encouraged by MARTA’s announcement today and [looks] forward to the vote on October 4.”
Of course, she added, “Federal matching funds will be critical to the next phase of this effort, and current workforce and population centers are key factors in that evaluation process.”
Although Woolard and Beltline Rail Now! supporters consider these updates to the project list a significant win after a long-fought battle, more work remains, according to their statement.
“While funding for the northwest corridor, which is owned by CSX Railroad, was not included and the total for Beltline transit on the southeast corridor stills falls short of the total, we feel certain that as conversations proceed to gain transit access to the corridor, funds will be found to complete this vital connection.”
(In related news, Beltline officials are telling the Atlanta Business Chronicle they’re very optimistic about landing $16 million in federal funding to kickstart construction of the Southside Trail itself, pending grant notifications in December).
MARTA’s new recommendation list also includes hundreds of millions of dollars for bus rapid transit initiatives, as well as other MARTA bus network improvements.
Other facets of the plans would extend the existing streetcar loop east to the Beltline (two miles), and west to Atlanta University Center and the Westside Trail (three miles).