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Atlanta Streetcar makes pitch for federal funding

By Maria Saporta

The Atlanta Streetcar — through the Georgia Transit Connector partnership — is making its best pitch to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

A public-private partnership between the City of Atlanta, MARTA, the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District and the Midtown Improvement District today is submitting its application for federal stimulus funding.

The proposal for up to $300 million for “shovel-ready” funding includes two lines:

One would start at the Five Points MARTA station and travel north up to the Brookwood Interchange where it would serve the area around the SCAD-Atlanta campus and the WSB television and radio station, about 6.6 miles of track.

The other line would be an east-west corridor that would run from Centennial Olympic Park to the King Center for 3.1 miles of track.

The long-term plan would be to extend the north-south line from Fort McPherson to the Brookhaven MARTA station.

“I think Atlanta has a good shot,” Mayor Shirley Franklin said this week. “This project has an economic development component, a jobs component, a transit component and it has business engagement.”

The application is part of a national competition for $1.5 billion pot of funds called the TIGER Discretionary Grants — aimed at jumpstarting the economy with local transportation projects. The maximum application amount is $300 million, and it’s possible a hundred or more applications will be submitted from around the country.

The Atlanta Streetcar proposal could end up being one of three or four that will be submitted from Georgia.

Despite the competition, local officials remain hopeful that Atlanta can secure at least partial funding for the project.

In its application, the partnership provided several different scenarios with different ranges in funding. That would keep open the possibility that the federal government could approve partial funding towards the project.

“The streetcar is both visionary and opportunistic,” said A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress. “We have a legitimate shot, but it’s extremely competitive.”

As proposed, the Atlanta Streetcar would operate electrically-powered vehicles that would operate on rails in the street with other vehicles. The cars would be able to seat up to 60 people and have a maximum capacity of 200 plus. There would be a low-floor boarding for the disabled, strollers and luggage, and bicycles could be brought on board.

“It will be a modern streetcar,” Robinson said, adding that the proposal calls for there to be one thin overhead wire providing the electricity.

The federal government will review the applications and will make a final decision on funding by mid-February 2010, and the projects must be in operation by February, 2012.

Even if Atlanta does not win a TIGER grant for the streetcar, Franklin said all is not lost.

“The good news is that this is work that would need to take place with or without stimulus funding,” Franklin said. “This is what you need to do if you are going to be shovel ready.”

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


1 Comment

  1. Carl Rutherford September 16, 2009 2:34 pm

    If you want a shovel ready project like the street car project, go to the archives and get a copy of the old street car routes. The tracks are still in the ground in many places around Atlanta, which eliminates the need for fesability studies because of the Grand Father clause. Some sections of track will have to be repaired or replaced. It will get the project going much sooner.Report


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