Months of campaigning by south DeKalb residents and county leaders for a heavy rail transit system to Stonecrest Mall may be paying off.
MARTA CEO Beverly Scott announced the “good news” during a breakfast meeting April 7 sponsored by DeKalb Commissioner Stan Watson.
“Mighty DeKalb County, your commissioners have worn us out—and CEO—consistently…these last months,” Scott said.
The plan is to construct nine new stations—four bus rapid transit and five heavy rail stations—to extend MARTA from Indian Creek to Stonecrest Mall. There could be an optional station at Turner Field.
The project would include 12 miles of heavy rail transit and 12.8 miles of bus rapid transit, Scott said.
“This is more heavy rail transit than MARTA has built at one time since the beginning of the system,” Scott said to applause.
The bus rapid transit “is not regular bus service,” Scott said. “This is premium.”
Once complete, it would take riders 40 minutes to travel from Stonecrest Mall to the Five Points MARTA station and another eight minutes to get to the Arts Center Station.
According to the MARTA staff recommendation, which was presented to the MARTA board on April 9, projected daily boarding in the corridor would be approximately 28,700 by 2030. MARTA staff members estimate that the system would attract 6,400 new riders in the corridor.
The projected cost of the new construction is $2.04 billion, Scott said.
“This is the real plan,” Scott said. “This is how all of MARTA was built.”
The bus rapid transit proposal addressed some the challenges of building transit in a densely developed metropolitan area, Scott said.
“You can do just about anything with money, but there are a lot of [challenges],” Scott said. “It is so built up. You couldn’t even get a lawn mower between the backyards and some of the…sidewalks.”
Scott said that MARTA plans to conduct a technical study of the feasibility of upgrading the bus rapid transit system to a light rail system. One way to accomplish that upgrade would be with a five-mile elevated rail track, Scott said.
Funding for that study will be included in the 2013 budget, Scott said.
On July 31, voters in the 10-county Atlanta metro area will decide whether they want to pay a one-cent sales tax to upgrade the region’s roads, sidewalks, bike paths and transit systems. If passed, DeKalb County will receive $1.3 billion for various projects, including $225 million for the I-20 corridor.
That money, according to MARTA officials, would pay for five park-and-ride bus stations at Stonecrest Mall, Fairington Road/Lithonia Industrial Boulevard, Wesley Chapel Road, Candler Road and East Atlanta. The stations would eventually be converted to high capacity transit stations.
“The $225 million of local funding for I-20…pays for those spots that are going to be the park-and-ride [station] that will ultimately become your rail stations for bus rapid transit,” Scott said.
The bus service will show the federal government, from which MARTA will seek additional funding, that “there are literally butts in seats that are using the service in the area,” Scott said.