By David Pendered

The Atlanta Streetcar is to be operating within 12 months, but its builders don’t have all the property the project will require.

Power cable attachment
The streetcar system in Portland uses attachments like this one to suspend guy wires that hold up the power cable that provides electricity to propel the vehicles. Credit: URS via MARTA

MARTA is getting ready to start talking to companies it wants to hire to appraise 26 parcels along the streetcar route. The parcels are needed for purposes including two streetcar stops and a roadway realignment.

There’s also new trouble with stringing the overhead power cables that will provide electricity to propel the vehicles. Power cables may have to be strung from guy wires attached to buildings, in some areas, because utility poles can’t be installed above newly discovered basements.

In addition, access is needed to a dozen properties so that poles can be installed and the power cables suspended from the poles, according to the “Request for Expression of Interest and Statement of Qualifications” document issued by MARTA.

The list of parcels needed for either temporary or permanent easements for the streetcar project includes portions of properties at:

  • Georgia Pacific building, on Peachtree Street, owned by the Koch brothers, and others;
Atlanta Streetcar route map
This is the route of the Atlanta Streetcar, in Downtown Atlanta. Credit:

Woodruff Park, at Five Points, owned by Atlanta;

  • Centennial Olympic Park, owned by Georgia;
  • Land on Edgewood Avenue, owned by Big Bethel AME Church;
  • MARTA’s station entrance, on Peachtree Street.
  • At least the overhead cable part of the problem has been known since September, according to MARTA documents. The latest list of properties where rights-of-way or easements are needed is dated Nov. 19.

    MARTA now has the project on a fast track. Wednesday is the deadline for vendors to apply for the job.

    Work is to be complete in June 2013. That is, unless the timeline is extended up to six months after that target, according to MARTA’s documents on the project.

    Mayan calendar
    NASA scientists have determined that the Mayan calendar does not end on Dec. 21, 2012. The calendar simply starts a new cycle. Credit: via

    MARTA’s document is the latest indication that the streetcar project continues to be waylaid by unforeseen problems under Atlanta’s streets and sidewalks.

    According to a Sept. 17 letter sent by the design consultant with URS to the project manager for the streetcar:

    • “Due to the presence of basements under the sidewalk along the alignment, the Atlanta Streetcar Project may require the connection of Overhead Catenary System (OCS) span wire to buildings along the alignment. This non-electrified span wire is used to support the electrified contact wire, which transmits power to the vehicle.”

    Atlanta’s public works commissioner, Richard Mendoza, did not specify this set of problems in his Nov. 28 update on the streetcar to the Transportation Committee of the Atlanta City Council.

    Mendoza said simply that problems with underground utilities seem to get worse at every turn: “We’re finding that as we go out there, we discover more issues we were not aware of,” Mendoza told the committee.

    Appraisers are to start work Dec. 21, unless the world ends that day, as has been forecast by an ancient Mayan calendar. NASA scientists have determined that the calendar predicts not the end of the world, but the beginning of a new age.

    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...

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    1. The guy wire issue seems to be a non-issue, though it’s obviously important that it’s brought up due to issues of real estate, legality, and due process, etc, etc, etc.  I say this because many streetcar lines in the past utilized building-mounted guy wires.  Many streetcar and trolleybus (electric bus) routes in other cities utilize this method too.  It’s a good way to avoid having duplicative posts litter the streetscape unnecessarily since you can’t always get a use agreement with GA Power or AT&T or whomever owns the nearest pole.  A SR post from 11.7.2011 had a picture of a guy wire eyelet hook still embedded in the Hurt Building (

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