Atlanta Streetcar aims to meet federal completion deadline of May 2013 with help from city

By David Pendered

Legislation needed to build the Atlanta Streetcar is starting to move swiftly through Atlanta City Hall, including a proposal to allow Peachtree Street to be blocked during rush hours of the 18-month construction period.

This week, three measures to provide for the streetcar’s construction are expected to be approved by the Transportation Committee of the Atlanta City Council. If approved, the council may consider them at its Nov. 21 meeting.

These efforts and others intend to allow the city to meet the federally imposed completion deadline of May 2013. Construction sometimes may go on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to meet that deadline, according to city documents.

Just last week, the council considered a $10.7 million allocation for the streetcar. The money would pay for the relocation of water and sewer utilities, and to add enhancements related to the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists along the streetcar route.

The council also considered a proposal to lease almost 2 acres for a streetcar maintenance barn and parking area beneath the Downtown Connector, between Auburn and Edgewood avenues.

The route of the Atlanta Streetcar through Downtown Atlanta. Credit: Atlanta Streetcar.

The route of the Atlanta Streetcar through Downtown Atlanta. Credit: Atlanta Streetcar.

These measures and others underscore the complexity of constructing the infrastructure necessary for the streetcar to operate along the planned 2.7-mile length through the central business district.

Here’s how that infrastructure is described in the environmental analysis completed for the project:

“Streetcars would travel and board passengers in mixed traffic along existing streets.

“Continuous welded rail would be embedded in existing streets using a shallow-slab construction method.

“The streetcar service would be powered using electric propulsion and supported by an overhead contact wire system.

“Special transit signal phases would facilitate the efficient operation of streetcar vehicles through signalized intersections.”

That’s a lot of work, and the clock is ticking toward the May 2013 deadline. Construction was to start by the end of this year, according to city documents.

The Peachtree Street proposal calls for the city to waive a prohibition against blocking traffic on major streets during the morning and evening rush hours.

Edgewood Avenue also could be blocked during rush hour, if the measure is approved.

Specifically, the legislation would waive the city’s ban on blocking lanes on arterial streets during the weekday hours of 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., and from 4:15 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Two other proposals on the agenda of the Transportation Committee address some one-way restrictions on downtown streets that need to be altered to allow the streetcar to function.

One measure calls for converting Ellis Street from a one-way street heading East to a one-way street with a dedicated lane for the streetcar to run against traffic, heading West. The affected area would be from Carnegie Way to Peachtree Street.

Another measure calls for Luckie Street to be converted from a one-way street heading West to a two-way street. The affected area would be between Centennial Olympic Park Drive and Peachtree Street.

 

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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