Life after T-SPLOST: MARTA tweaks bus schedules, GDOT moves ahead with toll lane project along I-75

By David Pendered

MARTA will tweak schedules on almost a third of its bus routes, starting Saturday, in an effort to improve adherence to schedules and enhance service in a few areas.

That news probably isn’t the most compelling of the day, but it is the latest indication of how life will continue for the foreseeable future after voters in metro Atlanta rejected the proposed transit tax.

Likewise, the state DOT announced last week that four teams have been put on the shortlist to build toll lanes along I-75 in Cobb and Cherokee counties. In addition, the DOT continues with the repaving of the northwestern segment of I-285.

These sorts of projects represent the foreseeable future for transportation improvements in metro Atlanta: Small, incremental steps to do what can be done – within existing budgets – to maintain the existing system of roads and transit.

“We’re not going to go away,” was the oft-repeated response of MARTA’s GM, Beverly Scott, when asked about MARTA’s future if voters turned down the proposed 1 percent sales tax for transit and transportation projects.

If the tax referendum were to fail, Scott said, MARTA would continue to exist. It simply wouldn’t be able to offer riders more of the capacity now available from the existing system, nor would it be able to offer new routes of rail and bus service.

MARTA is changing schedules through the system. Most of the 27 alterations are so minor they received this description:

“Trip times will be revised to improve schedule adherence. The service frequencies remain unchanged.”

A few other changes stand out:

  • Service will be discontinued within the IBM complex, on Northside Drive near the Chattahoochee River. MARTA says the building has been closed, evidently in preparation for its development into a school by the Atlanta Board of Education;
  • Service will be increased along McDonough Boulevard in Southeast Atlanta. Buses will run every half hour, instead of every 40 minutes, after 7 p.m. on weekdays;
  • To improve connectivity with GRTA at the Panola Road Park and Ride lot, in Lithonia, two MARTA routes will be adjusted and will stop at sites closer to GRTA buses.

Click here for more details, and wait for the rolling banner to land on the schedule changes.

The Georgia Department of Transportation has moved ahead with plans for what it calls the Northwest Corridor project. The project spans 30 miles and has a current projected cost of $750 million to $850 million.

The state’s intention is to sign an agreement with a consortium that will design, build, and partly fund construction of toll lanes to ease traffic congestion in the I-75 corridor.

This is the GDOT description of the project:

“The NWC project will build two new managed lanes along the west side of I-75 between its interchanges with I-285 and I-575. The lanes will be separated from the existing interstate and will be reversible so that both will carry traffic southbound during morning commute hours and northbound in the evenings. Above the I-575 interchange, one new reversible lane will be added in the I-75 center median to Hickory Grove Road and a similar new I-575 lane will extend to Sixes Road. A variable-rate toll, based on traffic volume, will be assessed for access to the lanes.”

The four companies that made the short list, which was announced Aug. 16, are:

  • C.W. Matthews Contracting Co., Inc., and the Michael Baker Corp.;
  • Fluor-Lane LLC;
  • Georgia Transportation Partners – comprised of Bechtel Infrastructure Corp., Kiewit Infrastructure South Co., Dewberry and Davis, LLC, and STV Inc.;
  • Northwest Express Road Builders – comprised of Archer Western Contractors, The Hubbard Group and Parsons Corp.

The timeline calls for GDOT to issue a final request for proposals in December.

 

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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