MARTA advances plan for rapid bus line for Clayton County

MARTA has taken another step toward creating a rapid bus line on a key transit corridor in Clayton and Fulton counties.

On Thursday the MARTA board’s planning committee approved a measure selecting bus rapid transit for a proposed line from East Point station to Jonesboro and Lovejoy. If approved by the full board next month, the move would overturn a previous decision to build a commuter rail line along the route.

MARTA plans a 22-mile transit line along Ga. 54 through Clayton and Fulton counties. It would include 17 stations, stopping at such destinations as Forest Park, Clayton State University and the Clayton County Justice Center.

In 2018, the MARTA board selected commuter rail as the best option for the corridor. But that plan fell apart last year when the Norfolk Southern railroad said it would not allow the passenger rail line to use its track.

MARTA said that would mean acquiring nearly 300 business and residential parcels, escalating the cost of a project expected to cost up to $2.4 billion.

Since then, MARTA has been promoting the benefits of bus rapid transit — an enhanced bus service that operates mostly in exclusive lanes and features amenities designed to mimic rail lines. MARTA estimates a rapid bus line along Ga. 54 would cost $572 million.

The agency recently led a Clayton County delegation to Indianapolis to study that city’s rapid bus line. Clayton officials were impressed with what they saw and have urged MARTA to pursue bus rapid transit for the Ga. 54 line.

“It became clear this was a very viable and acceptable solution for this project,” Deputy General Manager Josh Rowan told the planning committee Thursday.

The full MARTA board is expected to consider the proposal Dec. 8. The agency then would begin a detailed environmental study of the project and eventually apply for federal funding. The transit line is scheduled to open in 2030.