MARTA moving ahead with construction of Summerhill transit line

Credit: Courtesy of MARTA

Credit: Courtesy of MARTA

It’s the agency’s first new major transit line in a generation

More than six years after Atlanta voters approved a transit expansion, MARTA is preparing to break ground on its first new major transit line in a generation.

The MARTA board of directors’ planning committee Thursday approved a $65.9 million contract with Archer Western Construction to build the Summerhill bus rapid transit line along Hank Aaron Drive and Capitol Avenue downtown. The line would serve key downtown destinations such as Georgia State University, the Georgia Capitol and Atlanta City Hall on a 5-mile round-trip loop.

The full board of directors will take up the contract in March. Construction is expected to begin in May, with the line open for service in 2025.

It’s MARTA’s first new high-capacity transit line since the agency opened rail service to Sandy Springs in 2000. It’s also the first line to go to construction since Atlanta voters approved a half-penny sales tax for transit expansion in 2016.

“This is a great day for the city of Atlanta and the More MARTA program,” board member Rod Mullice said.

The Summerhill line will feature 14 stops and amenities designed to mimic rail lines. Buses will travel in exclusive lanes for 85% of the route. They also will use technology that gives them priority at traffic lights.

Credit: Courtesy of MARTA

Credit: Courtesy of MARTA

The line will feature transit stations with real-time information about bus arrivals. Passengers will pay before they board.

The buses will run every 10 to 15 minutes. It will take 12 to 15 minutes to travel from one end of the route to the other.

MARTA has big plans for that kind of “rapid” bus service beyond the Summerhill line. It will build a bus rapid transit line along Campbellton Road in southwest Atlanta and on the Clifton Corridor to the Emory University area. It also plans two rapid bus lines in Clayton County.

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But some of MARTA’s Atlanta expansion plans are up in the air. Inflation and unexpected costs have increased the price of projects — the cost of the Summerhill line rose nearly 49%. And MARTA has spent about half the proceeds of the new Atlanta sales tax on enhanced local bus service.

That has forced MARTA to revisit its plans for the city. The agency is negotiating with Mayor Andre Dickens on a revised list of priority projects that can be done in the foreseeable future.