Money approved for light rail study

Route would run from Norcross to Gwinnett Arena.

The Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District approved matching funds for a $60,000 grant to pursue light rail service along the I-85 corridor.

The money, up to $20,000, will be pooled with funds from the Gwinnett Place CID and $30,000 from the Atlanta Regional Commission to study ridership and marketability of a light-rail system that would run from Norcross to Gwinnett Arena in Duluth.

The action followed a report from HDR Engineering of Atlanta mapping out what light rail might look like in Gwinnett. Initial plans call for a 14-mile route with nine stops, including Gwinnett Place Mall, the hub for the county's bus transit system.

Plans also call for construction of a multimodal transfer station, probably in north DeKalb County, that would allow MARTA rail passengers to link up with the Gwinnett system, said Chuck Warbington, executive director for Gwinnett Village CID.

Overall construction cost, including right-of-way, would run just under $1 billion, and annual operating costs are estimated at about $25.5 million.

"This is not set in stone," Warbington said. "This is a preliminary plan to provide a framework to look at."

The marketing and ridership study should begin this summer. After the three-month study, the project would be advanced for funding consideration under the Federal Transit Administration's New Starts program. That initiative has $6.6 billion to assist local governments with transit projects through 2009.

"This is definitely something businesses in the southern part of the county are interested in," Warbington said. "Our job now is to get this out to the community and spread the word."