Lawmakers believe MARTA is right at the heart of the solution for traffic congestion

Feds give MARTA $12.6 million for Atlanta bus rapid transit line

The federal government will give MARTA $12.6 million for a new bus rapid transit line from downtown to midtown Atlanta.

The 9.4-mile Summerhill Bus Rapid Transit Project would connect the Summerhill neighborhood south of I-20 – anchored by Georgia State University – to MARTA’s Arts Center Station. The route will include stations and vehicles linking Midtown, Piedmont Park, Downtown, existing MARTA stations and the new Summerhill mixed-use development.

The $48.6 million transit line is tentatively set for construction in 2021 and would open by 2024. The project includes the purchase of about five new bus rapid transit vehicles and the installation of about 30 transit stations.

The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the grant through its Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program. 

The editorial of The Emory Wheel, the student newspaper at Emory University, has thrown its support behind two pieces of transit legislation that would include a process for expanding and financing MARTA beyond Clayton, DeKalb and Fulton counties. (CASEY SYKES / CASEY.SYKES@AJC.COM)
Photo: nancylbadertscher@gmail.com

Georgia’s two senators, Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, announced the grant Wednesday.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms called the grant "a long overdue investment in an often-overlooked area of our city."

"The dividends paid by investing in South Atlanta will boost our economy and lift up communities long-waiting for opportunity,” Bottoms said. “This news is further evidence of what can be accomplished when we reach across partisan and governmental lines to work together for a common good.”

MARTA says the project would be the first bus-rapid transit line in Georgia. BRT lines run with limited stops and operate in a mix of exclusive lanes and shared roadways.

“We are incredibly excited to see BRT in Atlanta,” said MARTA Chairman Robbie Ashe. “BRT has been widely successful in the United States and abroad, and I’m excited to see it come to Atlanta. We look forward to working with U.S. DOT and the City on this transformative project.”

The BRT line will likely give a substantial boost to the redevelopment of Summerhill and the neighborhoods south of I-20 and around Georgia State Stadium. 

With the BRT line, the neighborhoods will have a quicker transit connection to downtown, the main MARTA rail network and to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. 

That could make the redevelopment in the area much more attractive to corporations and retail tenants. 

The Atlanta Braves wanted a direct connection to MARTA when they were in talks with the city to remain at the former Turner Field, before the ballclub left for the new SunTrust Park in Cobb County. Residents listed mass transit as a priority in planning sessions designed to map out the future stadium redevelopment. 

Gwinnett County operates its own bus service, but could get a chance to join MARTA under House Bill 930. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia State University acquired Turner Field in January 2017, and the university and a development team also acquired surrounding parking lots. The developers, led by Atlanta-based real estate firm Carter, plan a $300 million mixed-use community on the former parking lots surrounding the stadium and in the old brick storefronts along Georgia Avenue. 

Carter and its partners have restaurants and retail slated for the first phase, along with office space and apartments. A student housing development is also planned near Georgia State Stadium in the first phase.

“The TIGER grant is a massive game changer for Summerhill and the stadium neighborhoods,” Carter President Scott Taylor said.

Isakson and Perdue also hailed the announcement.

“The rapid bus project, once completed, will offer much better links between neighborhoods, office buildings, higher education institutions and medical facilities that area residents rely on daily,” Isakson said. 

“When the I-85 bridge collapsed, MARTA proved to be critical to moving Georgians around Atlanta,” Perdue said. “It’s great to see the federal government not only recognizes the value of MARTA, but also is willing to invest further in this infrastructure asset.”

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