MARTA expansion would cross over Ga. 400 twice

In an attempt to win support from bedroom communities along Ga. 400, MARTA has chosen a route for a planned expansion northward along Ga. 400 that crosses the highway not once, but twice.

The MARTA Board is expected to approve the preferred route at a meeting Thursday afternoon. MARTA had studied several potential paths for a future rail line or bus rapid transit route, including one that went just up the west side and another that went just up the east side with no crossovers.

The route that planners settled on would bridge Ga. 400 at a spot north of North Springs Station and south of Spalding Drive. A second crossover back to the east side of the highway would occur north of the Chattahoochee River, with the exact spot still to be determined.

MARTA is laying the groundwork for three potential expansions in metro Atlanta, including the Ga. 400 one that would extend its heavy rail line from the current North Springs terminus all the way to Alpharetta. The other two are a heavy rail line along I-20 East and a light rail line from Lindbergh station to Avondale.

The transit agency doesn’t have the money to build any of them.

MARTA CEO and General Manager Keith Parker has said that none of the projects are favored above the others at this point. The priority will go to whichever one secures funding first.

“They are all very, very good and you can make strong arguments for any one of them,” Parker said at a meeting with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s editorial board in February. “But I think we will have at least one of those under way in a 10-year period.”

MARTA is also studying a lower-cost alternative for the Ga. 400 expansion that would involve running bus rapid transit along the same route, or along a future toll lane that the Georgia Department of Transportation wants to build in the median. Last year, MARTA said the heavy rail option would cost $1.6 billion and the bus rapid transit option would cost about a third of that, or $473 million.

David Centofanti, a Sandy Springs resident and president of the Northridge Community Association, said he is on a stakeholder committee and that latest estimates MARTA presented showed an increased cost of closer to $2 billion for heavy rail or $800 million for bus rapid transit. Nevertheless, he was pleased that MARTA took to heart the recommendations of community residents after gathering feedback about potential routes at a series of public meetings.

“They really took the feedback they got from the community and they are trying to make it happen,” Centofanti said.

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