By Maria Saporta
While the news that Atlanta did not receive any federal funding today for its streetcar project was a let down, several leaders were quick to say that all is not lost.
“We made a valiant effort,” said A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress, one of the four partners that put together the application for the streetcar. “We all knew it was a long shot.”
Robinson said both former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and current Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed did all they could to make sure the city’s application got a fair hearing.
The application was one of hundreds the federal government received by communities wanting a piece of the $1.5 billion in “Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery” (TIGER) funds that were part of the federal stimulus program.
“We are in a very competitive world, and we’ve got to work harder to advance this project,” Robinson said. “If we want to move forward, we have got to get to work on our transit infrastructure.”
Robinson said there is such a compelling case to be made to connect the Centennial Olympic Park district (especially the proposed National Center for Civil and Human Rights that will be built next to the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coke) with Auburn Avenue and King Center.
Also, having a streetcar running up and down the Peachtree spine between downtown, Midtown and Buckhead will help make Atlanta more a multi-modal city.
The city of Atlanta and MARTA had joined up with Central Atlanta Progress’ Downtown Improvement District and the Midtown Improvement District of the Midtown Alliance to put together the streetcar application.
“We will eventually figure this out,” Robinson said. “We are committed to connecting Auburn Avenue with Centennial Olympic Park, and we are committed to Peachtree Street.”
Luz Borrero, the city of Atlanta’s deputy chief operating officer, expressed the same sentiment.
“While we are disappointed about the news from the Department of Transportation, we are determined and plan to continue the streetcar work to ensure that the project is ready and can benefit from future funding opportunities such as the second round of TIGER grants, or the New Starts program,” Borrero wrote in an email.
“We believe this project continues to offer great economic development and job creation value to the city and the region, and as such, we intend to maintain the partnership formed between the city of Atlanta, the downtown and Midtown CIDs and MARTA to advance the project,” Borrero added.
Georgia has received a great deal of scrutiny recently on its lack of investment in transit and its rail infrastructure. One of the lessons that has come out in the latest rounds of federal transportation funding is that Washington, D.C. is giving money to cities and states that already have invested in their communities.
Robinson said that the city of Atlanta and the region has put together solid transportation plans. The Connect Atlanta transportation plan was passed last year. And the Transit Planning Board put together “Concept 3” — a regional transit plan that would serve all of metro Atlanta. Currently, the Atlanta Regional Commission is working with transit officials to create an overarching transit authority that would coordinate the development and operations of transit throughout the region.
“We’ve come a long way,” Robinson said. “Mayor Reed really was outstanding in trying to get us this money. We’ve got to put our great projects in front of the federal government.”
This statement on the streetcar just came in from Mayor Kasim Reed:
(ATLANTA) February 17, 2010 – This morning, my office was informed that the Peachtree Streetcar was not awarded the TIGER Grant stimulus funding for surface transportation initiatives by the US Department of Transportation.
While we are disappointed to not receive this particular round of funding for the Peachtree Streetcar, we will continue to aggressively pursue avenues for funding the streetcar initiative and I will be personally involved in securing the necessary funds at the Federal level. Our resolve to see this project through to completion remains steadfast and while this is certainly a temporary set-back, it is not an end to our ongoing efforts.
Georgia has received $5.9 billion in stimulus money and I will work hand in hand with our Georgia state leaders and our Washington partners to do what is best for our City. There is expected to be another round of TIGER Grant stimulus funding estimated at $600 million which we will be applying for. Atlanta must improve its transit connectivity and mobility in order to remain competitive with other urban areas. Our initial intention was to prepare an application that positioned us for other available federal grants and opportunities.
The initiative to make this application required strategic input and cooperation from the City, MARTA and the metro area business community as well as state and federal officials. I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in this project as we move on to the next phase of securing funding. This collaborative spirit is key to our future success on this project and other projects aimed at improving the quality of life in our city and state.