Atlanta’s streetcar takes first big step through City Council

By David Pendered

The construction of the planned streetcar system in Downtown Atlanta cleared its first big hurdle Wednesday at Atlanta City Hall.

The Finance Committee of the Atlanta City Council approved measures needed to start building the streetcar system. The committee approved plans to:

  • Lease almost two acres for a future parking lot and maintenance barn beneath the Downtown Connector, between Auburn and Edgewood avenues;
  • Provide a total of up to $10.7 million to relocate water and sewer utilities, and to add enhancements related to the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists along the streetcar route.

The committee approved the proposals and sent them to the City Council for consideration at its Nov. 7 meeting. Barring unexpected objection, the measures likely will be approved as part of the council’s consent agenda.

Tom Weyandt, who serves as Mayor Kasim Reed’s senior transportation policy advisor, said the council should expect to be presented with similar housekeeping measures as the streetcar is built.

“This is the first element of what likely will be, over a very long term, the kinds of decisions we’ll have to make as we implement the streetcar project,” Weyandt said to the committee. “This may be the kind of activity we can expect for a very long period of time.”

Here’s a snapshot of the projects the Finance Committee approved Wednesday:

  • Lease almost two acres from the state Department of Transportation for construction of a parking lot and facility to maintain, repair and store streetcars. The state has indicated the lease could be for $1 a year, according to Peter Andrews, the city’s lawyer for infrastructure issues. The total space beneath the bridge involves 77,625 square feet, and is an area that formerly served as an urban campground.
  • Provide about $907,000 for pedestrian and bicycle enhancements along the streetcar route. The money will help MARTA match a $5.1 million grant it received from the Livable Centers Initiative of the Atlanta Regional Commission. The city will get $770,000 of its share from the Urban Redevelopment Authority Recovery Zone Economic Development Bonds, series 2010; and $137,000 from the city’s previously issued Quality of Life Bonds. The Atlanta Downtown Improvement District is contributing $225,000 toward the local match for the LCI grant.
  • Provide up to $9.8 million from the Department of Watershed to relocate water, sewer and stormwater utilities along Luckie Street, which is to be converted from a one-way into a two-way street to accommodate the streetcar’s route. The money is to come from the department’s Water and Wastewater Renewal and Extension Fund Reserve.

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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