MARTA Advances Atlanta BeltLine Transit Study

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
Under a $500,000 contract, VHB/Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. will conduct a six-month study for light rail around the Atlanta BeltLine, which MARTA said is “an important step forward toward requesting federal funding support.”

Under a $500,000 contract, VHB/Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. will conduct a six-month study for light rail around the Atlanta BeltLine, which MARTA said is “an important step forward toward requesting federal funding support.”

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) Board of Directors has authorized a comprehensive engineering analysis for light rail around the Atlanta BeltLine, connecting current MARTA rapid transit stations.

Under a $500,000 contract, VHB/Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. will conduct the six-month study, which MARTA said is “an important step forward toward requesting federal funding support.” It will “assess the existing Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. (ABI) alignment data, validate the full program capability beyond the ABI alignment limits, and provide meaningful transit connections to the existing MARTA system,” according to MARTA.

The Streetcar East current extension alignment runs from Jackson Avenue to the BeltLine at Irwin Street and up to Ponce City Market. As part of the planning phase for this project, MARTA said that it reviewed ABI’s environmental study documents and “discovered several design gaps that warranted further investigation.” The draft environmental study documents released by ABI, the agency explained, “were primarily trail-based with some rail considerations that did not address several areas of rail transit concerns. The planning review of the documents revealed transit connectivity gaps to the north between Ansley Mall and Lindbergh Center rail station, and to the south between the existing Streetcar and I-20. Additionally, alignment options to MARTA heavy rail stations and alongside existing private railroad tracks have not been adequately addressed and require more evaluation.”

The new study, the agency said, will “help MARTA and ABI better understand transit gaps evident in existing alignment, [as well as] environmental and connectivity concerns, and document recommendations to be used in future planning, public outreach and design of light rail transit on the BeltLine.”

“MARTA appreciates that advocates for BeltLine rail are eager to see dirt turned, but upon analysis of initial environmental and engineering studies conducted by ABI, we identified significant gaps that must be addressed,” MARTA General Manager and CEO Jeffrey Parker said. “This is typical for a project of this size and this feasibility study will examine technical issues and risks involved in building light rail on the BeltLine and give us a better sense of overall project costs and feasibility. Right now, we have lines on a map with little to no connectivity. For this project to progress and ultimately succeed, it must connect to the existing MARTA system.”

“The Board saw this feasibility study as an important next step in MARTA’s commitment to its customers who support transit expansion along the BeltLine, and throughout the system,” MARTA Board Chair Rita Scott said. “When people hear of another study, they may be tempted to criticize this as over-analysis, but this level of due diligence is paramount to providing safe, efficient and connected transit, which is the goal of everyone involved in this massive project.”

“Transit is a vital component of the BeltLine vision to ensure greater connectivity and accessibility around the corridor,” ABI CEO Clyde Higgs said. “ABI looks forward to supporting MARTA’s work to bring transit to the BeltLine.”

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