MARTA on schedule with Summerhill BRT in Downtown ATL
By David Pendered
MARTA is on schedule with planned Summerhill Bus Rapid Transit project. A consultant has been hired to oversee the final engineering and design of the region’s first BRT corridor.
Kimley-Horn received an $11.3 million contract, as approved Feb. 11 by the board that oversees MARTA.
Service is to begin by August 2024.
The design team is to work on a route that extends 2.4 miles in Downtown Atlanta. The route is to link the Summerhill neighborhood, located near Georgia State University’s Center Parc Credit Union Stadium and the Atlanta BeltLine’s Southside Trail, with MARTA’s Five Points Station.
The designated route is to traverse Hank Aaron Drive, Capital Avenue, Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, and Mitchell Street, according to MARTA. This route passes destinations including the stadium, state Capitol, Atlanta City Hall, Georgia State University’s main campus, and MARTA’s central station, Five Points.
Buses on this route are to travel in lanes exclusive to their use, in most areas, and are to stop less frequently than traditional buses.
The hiring of a design team is a critical component in order for service to begin on schedule. Construction is slated to begin by August 2022, according to terms outlined in terms of the TIGER IX federal funding program that is helping to pay for the $68 million project.
Kimley-Horn’s engineers and design team faces a significant amount of work. A status report MARTA present in Summer 2020 highlighted these tasks:
- Validate 30% design concept;
- Confirm schedule and budget;
- Continue jurisdictional coordination;
- Stakeholder and public engagement;
- Final design includes:
- Traffic signals
- Right of way/easements.
The challenges of some of these components are evident in the Request for Expressions of Interest MARTA released last year.
For example, Kimley-Horn is charged with devising a plan to relocate all utilities that may need to be moved for a station to be built, and to upgrade utilities that aren’t adequate to serve a BRT station, according to the REI.
If past experience is any indication, this task has the potential to become a major issue. The Atlanta Streetcar was delayed in part because of unexpected challenges related to underground utilities, Richard Mendoza, the city’s former public works commissioner told the Atlanta City Council during the construction period.
Drainage is another concern, and not just to ensure that waiting passengers aren’t splashed by approaching buses with water standing on streets. The federal EPA has reviewed the project and determined that a storm water permit is required to complete drainage work at the last southern station on the route, according to the REI.
The Summerhill BRT has the potential to set the bar for future BRT projects in a region that plans to rely on the transit method to improve mobility.
MARTA specifically requested that the architectural and engineering services be prepared so that they “could be replicated in future BRT corridors,” according the REI.
According to a statement from MARTA:
- “Future BRT lines are planned along Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway and North Avenue (the first phase of which would run from the BeltLine to North Avenue Station); along Metropolitan Parkway; and from Morrow to College Park Station, in Clayton County.”