This July 2, 2009 photo shows a Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA ) train in Atlanta. The agency that runs Atlanta's public transportation system has put forward a $2.7 billion expansion proposal. It envisions building light rail along a popular urban trail known as the Atlanta Beltline, among other projects. The proposal from the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority is set to be voted on by its board of directors Oct. 4, 2018. (John Spink/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Photo: Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Photo: Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

MARTA board approves much-debated Atlanta expansion plan

After more than two years and lots — and lots — of debate, MARTA’s $2.7 billion Atlanta expansion plan is set.

The MARTA Board of Directors approved Thursday afternoon the final version of the transit agency’s “More MARTA” plan.

The approved version differs significantly from the original Atlanta plan presented in May, but mirrors an adjusted blueprint presented just last week. It includes a larger focus on transit along the Atlanta Beltline and less funding for the so-called Clifton Corridor. It also includes light rail service, and not the originally proposed bus rapid transit, along Campbellton Road. 

“This is the first step in getting there,” MARTA general manager Jeffrey Parkerr said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: MARTA’s final Atlanta expansion plan: A detailed look

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: MARTA plan boosts Atlanta Beltline, cuts funding for Emory line

In all, the 40-year plan involves 29 miles of light rail, 13 miles of bus rapid transit lines and three arterial rapid transit routes, as well as other improvements.

Atlanta voters approved an additional half-penny sales tax to fund transit construction and operations inside the city in 2016. MARTA solicited public input on how to spend the money and quickly found that many different community groups had many different priorities.

If it moves forward, it would be by far the largest expansion in MARTA's history.

A group called Beltline Rail Now, for instance, lobbied for full funding for light rail around the entire 22-mile trail loop. Others argued against the Clifton Corridor line, which would connect Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the larger system. 

Emory University was only recently annexed into Atlanta, they argued, and was not part of the city when voters approved the new sales tax. 

The new plan moved toward better appeasing both groups, as well as those that took issue with only bus rapid transit service in the Campbellton Road area in southwest Atlanta.  But it will ultimately rely on federal funding and private partners to complete many of the included projects.

Read more here.

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