By David Pendered
This story has been updated with a corrected address for the Monday night meeting.
Beverly Scott will leave MARTA in a posture of preparing for a day when the transit system again will be laying rails and expanding bus service.
MARTA on Monday will convene the first of three public meetings to gather public response to the I-20 East Transit Initiative. Almost before the responses can be analyzed, Scott will have departed as MARTA’s CEO/GM – a move she has announced will occur at yearend.
Such planning seems hopeful, especially in light of the region’s sound rejection of the proposed sales and the roiling debate over the role of federal funding for transit and transportation. Scott maintains that MARTA wasn’t planning its future around the sales tax plan.
“We’re not going to go away,” was Scott’s mantra when asked during the campaign how MARTA would manage without the influx of sales tax revenues to maintain and expand the system.
Meanwhile, transportation already has emerged as a battleground in the presidential campaign. While Georgia isn’t a contested state, its largest transit system can’t hurt itself by staying in the queue for whatever funding sources exist after the election.
The Obama campaign released a radio ad in Virginia last month attacking the Romney campaign for the proposal by running mate Paul Ryan to reduce transportation funding. The ad was one of seven launched in battleground states that tailored attacks on hot topics for local listeners.
In April, Ryan released a budget proposal that called for the elimination of the New Starts program, which funds most transit expansion in the nation. In response, Romney’s advocates have noted Romney’s transportation platform when he was Massachusetts’ governor, a platform that included spending for a mix of transit and transportation projects.
MARTA’s three public hearings will focus on two aspects of MARTA’s plan to expand service in DeKalb County: A new rail line running 12 miles from Indian Creek Station to Mall at Stonecrest; and new bus rapid transit service from Downtown Atlanta to a proposed station at Wesley Chapel Road.
BRT service would have been paid for through the sales tax. The proposed rail line was approved in April by MARTA’s board of directors.
At the time the board adopted the rail line, it was perceived to be a sweetener for DeKalb voters who opposed the sales tax because it did not significantly expand service in DeKalb County, which has been promised more service for decades.
Scott said simply that transit systems always need to have new projects in the pipeline because the process of approval and funding takes so long. That’s why MARTA’s board needed to vote to designate three new transit routes as Locally Preferred Alternatives – a designation that permits MARTA to begin the process of applying for federal fundings.
Resolution on LPA for I-20 East as Approved by the MARTA Board 4912“With that LPA (locally preferred alternative), you now have the right of entry to begin the federal process,” Scott said after the board’s vote in April. “It is a gestation on the federal project. But if you never get into the queue by having the LPA, you never can get to the finish line.”
The meetings begin the process of evaluating environmental concerns along the proposed routes. The presentations at all three meetings will be identical.
Each meeting will begin with an open house, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., followed by a one-hour period for the presentation and a question/answer session:
- Trees Atlanta
- 225 Chester Ave.
- Atlanta, Ga. 30316
- Porter Sanford III Performing Arts & Community Center
- 3181 Rainbow Drive
- Decatur, Ga. 30034
- Lou Walker Senior Center
- 2538 Panola Road
- Lithonia, Ga. 30058