Monday, June 28, 2010

Atlanta considers local funding match for streetcars

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Ignored by the federal government earlier this year in its effort to obtain economic recovery funds for a streetcar project, Atlanta has reformulated its effort, scaling back a 9.2-mile starter line to just a 2.6-mile downtown loop and—perhaps more important—committing local matching funds to the proposal.

Atlanta  DeputyChief Operating Officer Luz Borrero plans to submit a smaller $52 million bid to the U.S. Department of Transportation to build a streetcar line along a downtown loop, running from Centennial Olympic Park to the King Center, along historic Auburn Avenue. The project would be connected to MARTA and is estimated to draw more than 2,330 daily riders, including tourists and Georgia State University students. The estimated $72 million cost would seek $52 million in federal funding; the city of Atlanta and the Central Atlanta Progress' Downtown Community Improvement District each would commit $10 million, Borrero said.

Atlanta’s original proposal sought almost $300 million in federal funds for a streetcar project, offering little if any local matching funds. “When we had a debriefing, we asked why did they not give us the funds the first time around. The principal reason was the lack of local enthusiasm,” Borrero said.

The state capital had plenty of company; Georgia municipalities submitted more than 20 applications, but none was selected by the federal government in the first round. Observes Central Atlanta Progress President A.J. Robinson, “The pot is smaller this time and we have scaled down, not asking for the moon.”