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.

 

About David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with nearly 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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6 comments
Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch like.author.displayName 1 Like

What a surprise! Entirely expected by all.

They've already blown the budget and now they've blown the schedule.

Stay tuned for more bad news on this white elephant in the making.

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

 @The Last Democrat in Georgia  

I've been here off and on since 1965, and this is an oft-repeated occurrence since the mid 1970s. To my memory, the last City of Atlanta major project completed on time and budget was the first Atlanta Stadium in the mid 1960s.

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

 @jaw762  

My expectation is simple: a skilled transit agency (as MARTA portrays itself) with decades of experience will accurately forecast budget and schedule. Particularly on a project much simpler than underground subways.

 

MARTA is not a skilled transit agency.

 

With MARTA held out to the region as what they should expect from a skilled transit agency, it's no wonder that support is minimal. Support is earned, not an entitlement.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @jaw762  

 Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise that the our community can't support, build or maintain an adequate or viable transit system.  Heck, just take one look at the overwhelming dysfunction and incompetence of the STATE OF GEORGIA when it comes to transportation matters or just simple basic matters of governing and ETHICS.

 

Dysfunction, incompetence and unethical behavior has long been apart of the culture here in Atlanta and Georgia.  It's just that now that those shortcomings with our political leadership have become much more apparent now that North Georgia has the issues of a highly-populated region of six million people as opposed to a much-lesser and more sparcely-populated region of only one or two million.

 

A region of six million people requires a lot more complex approaches to solving the pressing issues of water management, traffic, overcrowding, illegal immigration, education, etc than a region that is only a fraction of the size.

 

The issues of mismanagement, dysfunction, incompetence and ethics in government agencies and institutions like MARTA, the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Georgia Legislature, the Atlanta Airport, the City of Atlanta, Gwinnett County, Clayton County, DeKalb County, etc are not isolated unto themselves.  The issues with all of those agencies are part of the culture of corruption that has been a feature of life and governance here in Georgia, it's just that those issues become much bigger when there are complex and pressing issues that need to be addressed.   

jaw762
jaw762 like.author.displayName 1 Like

 @Burroughston Broch  @The Last Democrat in Georgia 

Guys, this is complex stuff.  I think your expectations outweigh the difficulty of executing something like this.  As to this being a white elephant, I would say that our inability as a community to support, build, or maintain an transit system that compliments or goes beyond MARTA for the last four decades is the true white elephant in the region!