By David Pendered
MARTA is keeping the gears turning on the gritty behind-the-scenes job of establishing the Atlanta BeltLine and Atlanta Streetcar.
MARTA has shepherded the first tier of a required environmental impact study through to the conclusion of its public comment period. On Monday, MARTA’s board is slated to approve an additional expense to cover the cost of acquiring vehicles for the transit system that is to open in the fall of 2013.
Little in either measure is necessarily exciting. But both are required steps on the long path toward building two transit systems that are expected to reshape the way people travel around the regional core of metro Atlanta.
The environmental impact study contains nothing that was not disclosed when it was released last autumn. That report elicited comments that were mostly positive.
The news is that on July 2 the final public comment phase was to be concluded, Janide Sidifall, a MARTA planner, said at a June 25 meeting of the MARTA board’s Planning Committee.
The completion of this step sets the stage for actually developing the transit system, which she said could begin by the end of summer.
“We expect the signed record of decision by the FTA (Federal Transit Administration) to allow us to move into design, land acquisition and construction,” Sidifell said.
The study estimated construction costs of a transit system would be about $66 million a mile, using 2009 dollars.
The study also recommended that the vehicles used on the BeltLine be of a streetcar design, and not a light rail design. The study determined that a streetcar:
“Can be implemented at a generally lower capital cost while its shorter vehicle lengths provide greater flexibility than (light rail) in navigating the constrained geometry of the alignments. Streetcar may also result in fewer noise, vibration, and land use impacts.”
Meanwhile, MARTA planners will be working on another required report. This one is to be done by December, Sidifell said.
“We are initiating an equity analysis as part of the BeltLine study to move the project forward at the federal level,” Sidifell said. “The equity analysis will identify low income and minority areas and minority owned businesses. It will study the build and no build alternatives, and actions to mitigate them.”
Regarding the board’s upcoming vote on the vehicles for the streetcar, MARTA will pay an additional $750,000 to Siemens Industry, Inc.
The increase brings the total price to $18.8 million, according to the resolution that has already been approved by the board’s Operations and Safety Committee.
The additional money is intended to cover costs including the storage of vehicles at Siemens’ facility in Sacramento, Ca.
The federal government had initially imposed a completion deadline of May 2013 and the city in November announced plans for a 24/7 construction schedule to meet the deadline. Now that completion has been set back by at least several months, arrangements evidently have to be made to warehouse vehicles during that period.
Other reasons for the cost increase include extended warranty for the vehicles, wheel profile changes, and exterior decals, according to the resolution.