Atlanta Streetcar: Opening date in 2013 may be slipping away

By David Pendered

This story has been updated.

The Atlanta Streetcar appears increasingly unlikely to open in 2013, according to an update Atlanta’s public works commissioner presented Wednesday to the Transportation Committee of the Atlanta City Council.

Atlanta Streetcar logoCommissioner Richard Mendoza did not provide a direct answer to this question from Councilmember Yolanda Adrean: “When will you get the streetcar up and running?”

Mendoza said track construction will take up to 16 months after the first utility cut was made, this past summer. Just 30 percent of the requisite utility work is complete and as for its final completion date, Mendoza said: “I don’t have that information.”

Mendoza’s presentation was supposed to be on the impact the streetcar project is having on businesses. He explained the city is working diligently to mitigate the project’s impact on businesses.

Committee Chairman C.T. Martin pressed Mendoza on reports that some businesses contend they are losing money because customers can’t easily get to the shops and restaurants.

Mendoza said the city is aware of the issue, and is acting on three remedies: Encouraging construction companies to advise workers to patronize the shops; keeping the street fronts and sidewalks of shops as unobstructed as possible; and conducting meetings in affected restaurants whenever possible.

Atlanta Streetcar route

Atlanta Streetcar route. Credit: atlantadowntown.com

Adrean pressed Mendoza on the project’s construction timeline.

But first, here are some dates to remember:

  • November 2011 – Legislation approved by the city council said the federally mandated deadline for final completion was May 2013;
  • February – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood attended the groundbreaking for the streetcar and proclaimed Atlanta is at the “forefront of America’s streetcar renaisance.”
  • March – Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s office released a statement saying streetcar service “is scheduled to begin in fall 2013.”

Mendoza had already explained to the Transportation Committee that 16 utility companies are at work along the streetcar corridor, including Georgia Power and AT&T. Traffic controls are in place, and weekly meetings are convened to coordinate all the efforts, he said.

The maze of utilities beneath the streets and sidewalks is beyond expectation, Mendoza suggested. He concurred when Adrean compared it to soup beneath the streets and sidewalks.

“We’re finding that as we go out there, we discover more issues we were not aware of,” he said. “It would be hard for me to put a specific date on completion of the utility work.”

Mendoza said about 30 percent of the utility work is complete.

“We anticipate having it done in advance of all streetcar construction,” Mendoza said.

Track construction will last “12, 14, maybe 16 months” after the first cut for utility work. The first such cut was made last summer, he said.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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