Atlanta streetcar still in limbo over safety concerns

The City of Atlanta on Tuesday submitted plans to fix a slew of problems with its troubled streetcar, but it’s unclear whether those plans will pass muster with state regulators who have threatened to shut it down.

Last month, Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry gave Atlanta and MARTA the Tuesday deadline to come up with their plans to address 60 problems outlined in recent audits.

Forty-one issues are dealt with in the response, and officials requested a four-week extension for tackling the remaining ones, a spokeswoman for Mayor Kasim Reed said. She said the city also asked GDOT to withdraw its threat to shut down the streetcar, at least until the city has had a chance to address the other issues and the state has completed its review.

The statement said the city submitted more than 2,500 pages for review. It also said Atlanta and its streetcar partners “are committed to the safe and secure operation of the Atlanta streetcar, and agree that current and previous operation of the Atlanta streetcar is both safe and reliable.”

In its own statement, GDOT said it will take at least 10 days to evaluate Atlanta’s response. The agency pledged to review the documents but was noncommittal about shutting down the streetcar or giving the city an extension.

“The department has had numerous work sessions, meetings, and conversations and will continue to work collaboratively with the City of Atlanta and MARTA to ensure the goal of a safe and secure streetcar system,” the GDOT statement said.

The city and MARTA share responsibility for the $98 million downtown streetcar, which opened in December 2014. But state and federal law requires GDOT to oversee its safety and security. Over the last year, audits have uncovered problems ranging from poor maintenance procedures and inadequate staffing to a failure to properly investigate accidents.

In the May 23 letter, McMurry said streetcar officials have failed to “provide timely, substantive and compliant responses to deficiencies” identified by GDOT and the Federal Transportation Administration.

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