May 26, 2022 - News

Beltline rail is still the goal, Atlanta officials say

A rendering of people using light rail at a station near mixed-use development along the Atlanta Beltline
We think it can, we think it can. Screenshot: Courtesy of Atlanta Beltline Inc.

City leaders want to put transit advocates’ concerns to rest: Yes, they’re committed to making sure the Atlanta Beltline will include transit.

Why it matters: The groundbreaking, city-changing, multibillion-dollar project was born from a vision of rail transit circling Atlanta and connecting dozens of neighborhoods.

Details: Transit advocates including Beltline Rail Now argue that Atlanta residents who agreed to fund a MARTA expansion program in 2016 that includes light rail along the Beltline should be seeing shovels in the ground.

  • Statements from MARTA that the rail project could cost double earlier estimates, plus the transit agency’s increased focus on lower-cost bus rapid transit, also raised the question about light rail's future.

The big picture: This month, Beltline officials told Axios Atlanta that they’re on board with light rail. Mayor Andre Dickens told Maria Saporta this week that he's told U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg as much.

  • Speaking to the Atlanta City Council’s transportation committee Wednesday, MARTA officials noted that the Streetcar East Extension light rail line will link to the Beltline's Eastside Trail and snake to Ponce City Market.
  • "Whatever the decision ends up being, we will move forward and deliver," interim MARTA CEO Collie Greenwood said. "We just want to make sure that we're solving a transit problem and creating a transit solution that fits."

Yes, but: Will a whole new generation of Atlantans — some of whom weren’t even living here when the project was proposed in the early 2000s and know the Beltline as a fun walking trail — have to be persuaded that transit makes sense and is important?

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