House speaker calls for transit agencies to ‘be made whole’

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House speaker calls for transit agencies to ‘be made whole’

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Passengers ride the Red Line train at the North Springs MARTA Station. Since the I-85 bridge fire Thursday, there will be plenty of new MARTA riders, as commuters try to find new ways to get to work and elsewhere. DAVID BARNES / DAVID.BARNES@AJC.COM

Georgia transit agencies offering greater services in the aftermath of the I-85 bridge collapse should not face budget shortfalls after springing into action, House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said Monday. 

In a letter to Gov. Nathan Deal, Ralston urged the governor to tap all available federal resources to help MARTA and other agencies and said state dollars should fill any remaining gaps. 

While the impacted section of I-85 is closed, businesses will no doubt seek to employ flexibile schedules and tele-commuting – those ‘commute alternatives’ can do much to alleviate congestion on our roadways.  

However, it has also become apparent in the immediate aftermath that public transit services, particularly MARTA and GRTA’s Xpress bus service, may see extraordinary increases in ridership as a result of this incident. Monday’s commute showed MARTA ridership higher than normal.  

MARTA is encouraging passengers to use Kiss/Ride to and from MARTA stations due to extra riders. www.accessatlanta.com

Ralston said he hopes MARTA and Xpress and other services, “will take steps to extend service hours and make additional capacity available as necessary. However, I recognize that this will come at a price and may put a strain on the budgets of our transit systems as they attempt to cope with increased demand.”  

Since increased demand in transit is a direct result of the bridge collapse, he said, the increased costs should be part of the recovery effort.

Ralston’s office said the governor and state agencies could shift money as needed and that lawmakers could add money where necessary when they return to Atlanta in January. 

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