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MARTA planning major transit expansion on Ga. 400 corridor

10:43 PM, Aug 29, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- MARTA is planning to extend transit service along the Georgia 400 corridor in North Fulton County, with up to six new stations.

The agency is focusing on an alignment that would run heavy rail, light rail or bus rapid transit within existing right-of-way for 11.9 miles from the North Springs MARTA station in Dunwoody, Ga., north to Windward Parkway in Alpharetta, Ga., according to a public notice of the project filed by the Federal Transit Administration.

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The project would be the first expansion of the MARTA system since the Sandy Springs and North Springs stations opened in 2000, also on the Georgia 400 corridor.

"That area has been growing by leaps and bounds, particularly in terms of employment," said Janide Sidifall, project manager for MARTA. "It's a huge employment center."

Sidifall said North Fulton also is becoming a center for higher education, with Georgia State University and Georgia Perimeter College having established satellite campuses there and Georgia Gwinnett College planning to follow suit.

MARTA plans to release cost estimates on the three alternative technologies within the next couple of weeks, in time for a Sept. 26 public meeting on the project, she said.

Estimates prepared in 2000 for extending MARTA rail service north from the Dunwoody station through Sandy Springs to North Springs came in at $283.6 million.

The bus rapid transit option would be the least expensive, followed by light rail and heavy rail.

Sidifall said other factors besides costs will go into MARTA's choice of technologies, including ridership. Heavy rail would be expected to attract the most passengers, she said.

"It's a balancing act," she said.

The light rail and bus rapid transit alternatives would include six stations from south to north: Northridge Parkway, Holcomb Bridge Road, Mansell Road, North Point Mall, Old Milton Parkway and Windward Parkway.

The heavy rail alternative would not include a station on Old Milton Parkway.

All three alternatives, including the bus option, would run along dedicated rights of way.

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With government funding at all levels tight and likely to remain that way, Sidifall said the project likely would be financed through a public-private partnership, the model the Georgia Department of Transportation is using for several planned toll projects on metro Atlanta's interstate highway system.

She said investors in an expanded MARTA line could recover those investments through a combination of fares, concessions and transit-oriented development surrounding the new stations.

The Sept. 26 public meeting will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Alpharetta City Hall, located at 2 Main St.

Sidifall said MARTA will use the input gained from that session to help develop a recommended alternative.

She said agency officials plan to go to the MARTA board with that recommendation as early as December.

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(Atlanta Business Chronicle)

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