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Beltline transit advocates lobby ARC for help with trailside rail

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As is, 15 miles of trail-adjacent streetcar routes are funded by the More MARTA program

a rendering of light rail along the Beltline
A concept for how rail might function where an extended Eastside Trail meets Memorial Drive.

Transit proponents with advocacy group Beltline Rail Now! are not done fighting for a full loop of light rail along the 22-mile Beltline loop to-be.

Supporters rallied at an Atlanta Regional Commission meeting last week to request help in the crusade for trailside rail—an important tactic if transit advocates hope to see a streetcar system strung along the entirety of the popular paved path.

In October, MARTA’s board of directors approved a plan for spending some $2.7 billion to expand Atlanta’s transit network.

Thanks in part to BRN! efforts, more than $570 million of that is scheduled be used to line 15 miles of the Beltline with light rail tracks—more than double the amount that’d been laid out in earlier plans.

More MARTA program plans.

But some Atlantans who’ve been looking forward to Beltline-adjacent transit since the multi-use path’s inception aren’t quite satisfied with 15 miles of rail.

Every four years, the ARC drafts a long-range plan with a “wishlist” of transportation projects that could be competitive for federal funding, according to BRN!’s call to action.

Getting ARC’s support for Beltline rail could be a crucial step toward seeing the transit vision come to life, supporters say.

“Neither MARTA nor the city has asked the Atlanta Regional Commission to include Beltline rail in their long-range plan,” says a BRN! release. “If the Beltline is not in the ARC plan it can’t qualify for federal matching dollars and thus won’t be completed for decades.”

Granted, the ARC does not have decision-making power when it comes to picking transportation projects that city leaders will back, but it does have a considerable amount of influence over the Atlanta City Council and MARTA.

And after transit advocates showed up in force last week, BRN! leaders report there is “positive movement towards ARC including rail on the entire Beltline on their list.”

The More MARTA plan that officials approved in October included eight miles of two-way light rail lines on the northeast, southeast, and western parts of the Beltline.

That’s in addition to the previously planned seven miles: A three-mile light-rail link from Ponce City Market to the Lindbergh MARTA Station, plus four miles linking the Beltline’s southwestern leg with the Oakland City station.

The ARC is expected to compile another draft of its transit plan by July.

Before then, BRN! is calling on supporters to reach out to city councilmembers and MARTA officials to ask for help.