City of Atlanta crossing its fingers for streetcar funds
By Maria Saporta
The city of Atlanta and MARTA should find out by Wednesday whether it will receive federal transportation funds for its streetcar proposal.
A public-private partnership between the city, MARTA, Central Atlanta Progress and the Midtown Alliance applied for nearly $300 million to build a streetcar line from Five Points to Midtown, and a line from Centennial Olympic Park and the Georgia Aquarium to the King Center.
Atlanta is facing stiff competition because it is one of dozens, if not hundreds, of cities in the running for $1.5 billion to be awarded nationally. As a way to improve its odds, the city’s application had scaled down proposals, including one for about $100 million.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has been working hard to improve the city’s chances to win the streetcar funds. He has been up to Washington, D.C. several times to meet with top elected leaders and transportation officials.
“I think the streetcar’s prospects are looking much better,” Reed said in a recent interview.
Reed said the city’s streetcar application was “elevated” because Yvette Taylor, the Region IV administrator of the Federal Transit Administration has recommended that the project be approved.
“Prior to us going to Washington, our project had not been recommended by the regional leaders, which is essential to government funding,” Reed said.
A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress, said this particular program calls for the federal government to pay for 100 percent of the cost of the project, which would be a major win for the city.
And Atlanta could use a win. Georgia has come up short in recent rounds of federal transportation funding for high speed rail projects. Florida and North Carolina both scored big in those funding rounds.
Ray LaHood, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, has said that cities will be notified by Feb. 17 on whether they’ve won the grants.
If Atlanta loses out on the streetcar funding, Robinson said that the good news is that now the project is ready to go forward if other transportation funds become available.