Jun 7, 2024 - Transit

Atlanta mayor calls for time-out on $230 million Five Points overhaul

A rendering of a transit station with a large shade canopy and stairs next to an open area with trees

The most recent MARTA Five Points vision. Rendering: Courtesy of MARTA

Mayor Andre Dickens wants MARTA to halt a $230 million overhaul of the transit system's Downtown hub until after an audit of the agency is complete.

Why it matters: MARTA's plan to close street access to Five Points in late July met a chorus of critics including elected officials, a Downtown business group and mobility advocates.

  • The closure and construction period would pause and the station would temporarily reopen for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. It's unclear how Dickens' request could affect that deadline.

Zoom in: In a letter sent Thursday to MARTA CEO and general manager Collie Greenwood obtained by Axios Atlanta, Dickens said he wants additional information after reading the preliminary findings of an ongoing audit of More MARTA, a sales tax that's funding much of the Five Points makeover.

  • He wants the project halted "until we are in receipt of the final report and engage in subsequent discussions together to determine the best possible path forward for MARTA and the City of Atlanta."
  • In a memo attached to the letter, Atlanta chief financial officer Mohamed Balla flagged early findings concerning the city and MARTA's intergovernmental agreement and difficulty obtaining some information because of employee changes.
  • He also noted concerns about bus route enhancements and potential discrepancies in program costs.

The full audit — a sticking point between the agency and the Atlanta City Council — should be available in late July, Dickens says in the letter.

  • MARTA's controversial access closure plan — set to begin July 29 — has met pushback from downtown business leaders, elected officials and mobility advocates.

The intrigue: Dickens says the city has also "identified other priorities that need to be considered before we move forward."

  • The letter does not elaborate on those priorities, though Dickens did announce during the State of the City that he wants to build several infill MARTA stations and is exploring options other than rail on the Beltline.

Catch up quick: Downtown business group Central Atlanta Progress has urged the city and MARTA to redesign the station and delay construction until after the World Cup.

  • Atlanta City Council President Doug Shipman and members, including Jason Dozier and Amir Farokhi, have expressed frustration about the timeline and design.
  • This past week, a coalition of advocacy organizations said the closure's impact will "likely be most disproportionately felt by Black and brown communities, low-income riders, seniors, and people with disabilities."

What they're saying: MARTA has acknowledged the construction's impact on riders, residents and businesses and says it would work with the community to minimize disruptions.

  • After the World Cup, the agency will resume construction on the renovation and could consider opening a single entrance, a transit official told WSB. Construction is expected to last until 2028.

Context: Designed by global architecture firm Skidmore Owings Merrill, MARTA's makeover calls for deconstructing Five Points' hulking concrete canopy and opening up the subterranean station to more sunlight and fresh air.

Follow the money: The multimillion-dollar project is funded by revenues from More MARTA. Federal and state transportation agencies have also contributed roughly $40 million to the project.

Read the specifics about rerouted buses and services

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