Agency is committed to the best routes

For years, the area surrounding the Ga. 400 corridor has seen exponential growth. North Fulton County has become one of the region’s most significant employment centers, attracting new residents and businesses every day. The Atlanta Regional Commission projects the area will add approximately 65,000 new jobs and 19,000 new residents by 2040.

Meanwhile, automobile traffic on Ga. 400 is increasingly congested, contributes to poor air quality, and wastes valuable time and money because of chronic travel delays. In response to these challenges, in 2011, MARTA began working on the Connect 400 Transit Initiative.

Connect 400 is one of three expansion projects MARTA is studying to address transportation needs in high-growth, high-impact areas.

Also under study for future transit expansion are the I-20 East and Clifton corridors. Both need transportation alternatives to make it easier to get around and increase access to jobs and housing.

The I-20 East Corridor extends from downtown Atlanta to southeast DeKalb County. Proposals include a combination of heavy rail from the existing Indian Creek MARTA rail station to the Mall at Stonecrest, and a bus rapid transit or light-rail connection between Wesley Chapel Road and downtown Atlanta.

The Clifton Corridor is planned as an 8.8-mile, light-rail line linking the Lindbergh Center and Avondale rail stations. From Avondale, there would be a connection to the proposed I-20 East corridor rail extension.

Of the three proposals, I-20 East is the furthest along; the Federal Transit Administration is now conducting a mandatory environmental review. The Clifton project is about to begin the environmental review phase of the federal planning process.

As planning for Connect 400 also advances, MARTA welcomes the opportunity to work with the North Fulton community to identify alternative transportation solutions. Connect 400 is still in planning, and no final decisions have been made. That’s why MARTA needs your help. We’re seeking public feedback to identify the transit solution that best addresses the needs of residents, communities and businesses in the area.

So far, three alternatives for Connect 400 have emerged as the most viable from a community and technical standpoint: bus rapid transit, light rail, and an extension of the existing heavy-rail service from the North Springs station to the Windward Parkway area.

With input from the community, MARTA must select a “locally preferred alternative” that will later be evaluated in a detailed environmental review. With additional funding, the project could move to preliminary engineering, then construction and, ultimately, operations.

MARTA has received large amounts of feedback on Connect 400 through emails, letters, surveys, social media and stakeholder interviews. Public support for the expansion of high-capacity transit in the GA 400 corridor is tempered by concerns about increased traffic and impacts to local property values.

With so much at stake, MARTA wants to hear from you as much and as often as we can. Next month, we’ll host community meetings to provide information on the status of the project and the alternatives under consideration.

For more information about the project and upcoming meetings, visit our website at http://www.itsmarta.com/north-line-400-corr.aspx. To express your opinions about Connect 400, email connect400@itsmarta.com. You can also help by sharing information about the Ga. 400 and other MARTA expansion projects with friends, neighbors, community groups and places of worship.

Metro Atlanta is our home. Today, as we celebrate our 35th Anniversary as a bus and rail system, we’re proud and committed to working with the communities we serve to ensure these exciting new transit projects are the very best they can be.

(For more information on the other MARTA expansion projects, find them on Facebook, or visit online: I-20 East Corridor Transit Initiative — www.itsmarta.com/I20-east-corr.aspx; and Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative — www.itsmarta.com/Clifton-Corr.aspx.)

Cheryl L. King is assistant general manager for planning at MARTA.

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