You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

breaking news

New I-85 bridge on schedule, could cost up to $16.6M

Georgia House panel passes resurrected MARTA expansion bill

An effort once presumed dead to expand MARTA’s rail system found new life Tuesday when a House committee inserted it in another bill.

Senate Bill 369, which the House Regulated Industries Committee passed as a substitute to a fireworks bill, would allow the city of Atlanta to hold a November referendum to determine whether to levy a half-percent sales tax to fund a MARTA expansion.

The bill would also create two regions within Fulton County, addressing continued differences between north and south Fulton over a MARTA expansion.

Parts of Fulton County outside Atlanta would be allowed to levy a five-year sales tax of 0.75 percent, also depending on the outcome of a referendum. If north Fulton decides to adopt a rail expansion, the region could levy a 0.25 percent tax for funding.

The sales tax could fund about $2.5 billion in new transit projects by one estimate.

House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, R-Milton, has been in charge of the last-minute changes to the legislation. Jones said the MARTA expansion is necessary because Fulton serves as a “crossroads for much of the commerce and many of the commuters in the metropolitan area.”

“There was a desire, in particular by much of the city of Atlanta, to go forward with a significant expansion of MARTA’s infrastructure,” Jones said.

Senate Bill 330, sponsored by state Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, was the original MARTA bill lawmakers introduced this legislative session.

The bill would have allowed residents of DeKalb and Fulton counties to vote to increase their existing 1-cent sales tax by a half-cent for additional MARTA financing. The funds would have extended MARTA rail to Alpharetta, Lithonia and through the busy Emory/CDC corridor.

The Senate Rules Committee blocked a vote on the legislation last month after expressing concerns about the plan. One committee member, state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, expressed concerns that SB 330 excluded Cobb and Gwinnett counties by focusing on DeKalb and Fulton.

Leaders in the cities of Johns Creek and Alpharetta also opposed the legislation and said a MARTA expansion could worsen the metro area’s traffic problems instead of improving them.

The Senate’s block on the bill made the the future of transit service in metro Atlanta uncertain because SB 330 was the only long-term transit plan that was introduced.

Since the MARTA expansion is now under SB 369, the legislation is now getting a second chance at becoming law.

Lawmakers who continued pushing the MARTA expansion used the legislative technique of writing the bill’s language into an existing piece of legislation in the House. This could then bring the issue to the chamber for a vote.

Several representatives expressed their support of the legislation and applauded Jones’ efforts in reviving the bill once considered dead.

“I can’t think of anything more important than having a MARTA bill come out of this House and Senate this year and get to the governor,” said state Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus. “It’s something that directly affects the quality of life here in this region, as well as the workforce development and employment.”

State Rep. Pat Gardner, D-Atlanta, has been another avid supporter of expanding MARTA in the metro area. She said her constituents are “crying for some help on the congestion” Atlanta has on its streets.

“The expansion of MARTA will help us get around our city,” Gardner said. “I really believe in a regional transit system, and I think this is a great start.”

Gov. Nathan Deal also weighed in on the possibility of letting voters have the final say on the MARTA expansion. He said “those who are willing to financially support” the expansion, meaning voters, “should have the primary say-so over whether they see fit to do so.”

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in a statement earlier this month that “expanding MARTA is one of the most important things we can do to win the jobs war.”

MARTA officials have also expressed overwhelming support of the legislation.

“MARTA, of course, thinks this is a really great first step in expanding transit options for people throughout the metro area,” said John Bayalis, MARTA’s director of government affairs.

Jones said she hopes SB 369 will get a House vote Wednesday.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Georgia Politics

Hunter Hill announces he is running for Georgia governor
Hunter Hill announces he is running for Georgia governor

Republican Hunter Hill entered the race for Georgia governor on Tuesday, emphasizing his background as a U.S. Army veteran who pledges to bring a “more efficient and effective state government” and making a vow to advocate for school vouchers. The Atlanta state senator told colleagues last week that he was joining the growing field to succeed...
Sonny Perdue gains confirmation to become nation’s ag chief
Sonny Perdue gains confirmation to become nation’s ag chief

Former Gov. Sonny Perdue will become the first-ever Georgian to lead the sprawling U.S. Department of Agriculture after the Senate voted overwhelmingly Monday evening to confirm him to the Cabinet. Thirty-seven Democrats joined every Republican to vote in favor of elevating the Republican to the position, 87-11, nearly 13 weeks after he was first...
Lawsuit: GA House districts ‘gerrymandered’ to remove minority voters
Lawsuit: GA House districts ‘gerrymandered’ to remove minority voters

A new federal lawsuit claims Georgia illegally gerrymandered two state House districts by moving minority voters out of the districts of two vulnerable white Republican lawmakers. The suit, filed Monday by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, claims that the districts of Reps. Joyce Chandler, R-Grayson, and Brian Strickland, R-McDonough...
What Sonny Perdue’s Cabinet promotion could mean for Georgia
What Sonny Perdue’s Cabinet promotion could mean for Georgia

When Matt Coley left his job on Capitol Hill a few years back, he decided to return to his family’s decidedly un-Washington business of growing cotton and peanuts. He now tends to roughly 3,400 acres about 45 minutes south of Bonaire, the Middle Georgia town called home by the soon-to-be most powerful man in agriculture. That man is former Gov...
From power to prison, Walker still dispensing advice on politics
From power to prison, Walker still dispensing advice on politics

He reveled in the nickname. The Hammer. A share-cropper’s son turned millionaire Augusta businessman, Charles Walker rose to become the Georgia Senate’s first African-American majority leader. He had the power to make sure most anything he wanted for his community made it into the state budget — and the political muscle to get things...
More Stories