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Residents weigh in on MARTA Ga. 400 initiative at Alpharetta meeting
by James Swift
July 16, 2014 01:12 PM | 4642 views | 1 1 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARTA representative Mark Eatman discusses the plans with residents.
MARTA representative Mark Eatman discusses the plans with residents.
The second of three public meetings on MARTA expansion into north Fulton was held at the Georgia State University Alpharetta Center July 10. The Ga. 400 Corridor Transit Initiative would add 12 miles to the existing line, extending from North Springs to Windward Parkway.

Proposed station spots include Northridge Road, Mansell Road and Holcomb Bridge Road.

A Connect 400 Alternatives Analysis started in 2011. After roughly two years of evaluations, “early scoping” for the initiative began last fall.

With the Federal Transportation Administration recently updating the New Starts funding program, MARTA is seeking residential input about possible “locally preferred alternatives.”

The type of transportation has yet to be decided, with busses, light rail and heavy rail all being considered.

Preliminary costs for heavy rail was about $1.6 billion, said project manager Mark Eatman. Light rail is tabbed at $1.8 billion and bus rapid transit would cost an estimated $470 million.

“As of right now, people tend to prefer heavy rail,” Eatman said.

Early MARTA survey results indicate three-fourths of corridor residents support expansion to the Forsyth County line, with 40 percent preferring heavy rail transport. The same percentage of north Fulton employees favored expansion, with two-thirds of respondents opting for heavy rail transit.

Alpharetta resident Leigh Sanders said she supported expansion. “We never think of the future when building transportation routes,” she said. “Why not invest in your infrastructure?”

Another Alpharetta resident, Susan Yarbrough, preferred the heavy rail option. “It’s long overdue.”

Mark Bryant, who lives in downtown Alpharetta, said he wants MARTA extended to Old Milton Parkway. “My biggest concern is that it doesn’t happen fast enough … that I’m going to die of old age before it gets here.”

Johns Creek physician Salpi Adrouny said north Fulton should have had heavy rail 20 years ago. “If we’re going to be an international city, we just need to have expanded MARTA rail,” he said.

Another heavy rail proponent, Alpharetta’s Randy Howard, said he hoped expansion would reduce GA 400 congestion. “The right combination of good high-speed rail and some good bus rapid transit,” he said, “really makes for an effective transportation system.”

Bill Fogarty, an Alpharetta resident living near Windward Parkway, said he prefers the heavy rail option. However, he is concerned about cost overruns. “When the government spends money,” he said, “oftentimes the original viability plan cost is exceeded by a dramatic amount.”

Tony Vaughn, also of Alpharetta, said he was outright opposed to expansion. “If you were to ask Buckhead and North Springs to approve it again, I don’t think they would,” he said. “It’s a crime transport … I think it’s gone too far north already.”

A decision has not been made as to whether the line would run on the east or west side of Ga. 400, although Eatman said it is possible the route could alternate between the two.

With more families on the east side, Sandy Springs resident Ben Nadler said it made more sense to place stations on the west side. “It needs to be done in such a way that it hits and impacts the people who will actually use it,” he said. Project manager Janide Sidifall said MARTA is looking at the federal New Starts program to cover half the project bill.

“But then we would have to find the other 50 percent in local match,” she said. “Or we would have to get local partners involved to look at some kind of property taxation or sales tax.”

National Environmental Policy Act scoping will begin in November, with a request to enter into FTA project development set for May 2016.

A record of decision is expected to be signed Feb 2017. Operations are tentatively set to begin six to 12 years from now.

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