ATLANTA -- Georgia lawmakers are set to introduce a bill to expand MARTA rail. It would require a new tax and the approval of voters.
It's been more than a decade since MARTA last expanded its rail system – largely because of an absence of funding. But lawmakers say if residents in Fulton and DeKalb County want expansion – they can pay for part of it with a new sales tax.
The projects are "expensive but it will help move people, and give citizens the option of transit. And we need to expand transit," said Rep. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), who said he would introduce the measure Monday.
Beach said the plan would raise more than $8 billion to expand MARTA rail. It would ask voters to approve a one-cent sales tax in Fulton and DeKalb counties. Half would go for road improvements. Half would go to expanding MARTA rail.
It would attach three lines to the existing MARTA rail system -- one that goes north up Georgia 400; another that goes east to Stonecrest Mall out I-20; and a light rail line called the Clifton Corridor, which goes through Emory and southeast to Avondale.
Despite its costs, many Georgia Republicans have begun to warm up to rail transit as population has grown and roads have clogged.
"The millennials and the young people are demanding it. Our peer cities that we compete with, Dallas and Charlotte, they're expanding transit. And we need to expand transit in order to get into the job centers," Beach said.
House Speaker Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) is among the Republican who has begun to talk up rail transit as a way to keep Georgia competitive for jobs. New companies "want to be located near rail," Ralston said Tuesday. "I think we have to face reality and we're going to have to talk about transit in some fashion."
If the bill passes the legislature, it would require approval of the Fulton and DeKalb County boards of commissioners, followed by the approval of voters on election ballots.