DeKalb commissioners renew push for MARTA rail along Interstate 20

MARTA trains are staged at the end of the gold line at the Doraville station. A proposal from some metro Atlanta mayors would create an east-est line connecting the station to SunTrust Park. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM AJC FILE PHOTO
Caption
MARTA trains are staged at the end of the gold line at the Doraville station. A proposal from some metro Atlanta mayors would create an east-est line connecting the station to SunTrust Park. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM AJC FILE PHOTO

DeKalb County should push MARTA to extend a rail line to the city of Stonecrest, a split DeKalb County commission has decided.

Commissioners voted 4-1-2 to narrowly approve a resolution that says heavy or light rail along Interstate 20 should be included in an upcoming Transit Master Plan. This plan, once approved, will become a guidebook as DeKalb works with MARTA and the ATL Board to expansion mass transportation in the county.

The resolution adds a wrinkle to the Transit Master Plan process, which is in the final stages. Consultants have said that DeKalb could increase its sales tax by 1 percent, but that wouldn't bring in enough money for a new rail line along Interstate 20. They have pushed a bus rapid transit line instead.

By approving the resolution, the county commission is making it clear that rail -- and not bus rapid transit -- is the goal.

Read more: DeKalb enters final phase of Transit Master Plan process

Commissioner Nancy Jester tried to introduce an amendment that would have watered down that language and kept the bus line as an option. When that didn’t get traction, she said she could not approve the resolution and ultimately voted “no.”

Commissioners Kathie Gannon and Jeff Rader abstained.

Commissioner Larry Johnson, the resolution sponsor, said he introduced the measure after hearing from constituents who said they wanted MARTA to make good on a 2012 promise to bring rail to south DeKalb. These residents have been paying into the MARTA system for decades through an existing 1-percent sales tax but have not reaped enough benefits, Johnson said.

During a MARTA board meeting in September, several black speakers said that MARTA appeared to be favoring projects that benefit residents in white areas over those in black communities.

In March, Gwinnett County voters rejected a referendum that would have expanded heavy rail up Interstate 85 from Doraville to Jimmy Carter Boulevard.

Read more: Atlanta, DeKalb residents vent on MARTA expansion plans

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