Supporters encouraging MARTA transit for Clayton County

CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. (WXIA) – The fight is underway to bring public transportation back to Clayton County.

With one week until Election Day, people were out Saturday, encouraging voters to support a measure on the ballot that would bring MARTA back to Clayton County.

Rev. Al Sharpton visited the county Tuesday morning to show his support for MARTA's potential expansion. Clayton County currently has no public transit service.

If passed, the measure would change the MARTA map that most people are familiar with. The current rail lines go in all directions from downtown Atlanta – north, east, west and south, but no farther south than Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. This would change that.

Residents have the option to approve a one penny sales tax which would allow the expansion. The new measure would likely include rail, which has never existed in Clayton County. When MARTA was established in the 1970s, rail lines were established only in Fulton and DeKalb counties.

If approved, the tax will last for 30 years. The county will begin collecting it in March 2015. That same month, limited bus service will begin in Clayton County, with complete MARTA bus service expected by July 2016.

Rail service will come later, with half the tax money collected being held in an escrow account until a later date.

Officials said the penny sales tax is projected to generated $46 million in its first year.

Clayton County commissioners say this is a move that could turn the county around.

"The unemployment rate in Clayton County is 9.4 percent, one of the highest in the state. Unacceptable," said Commissioner Jeffrey Turner. "You look at economic development and the opportunities transit will bring us. I would say look at those, look at the options, and see that transit is a viable, positive thing for Clayton County."

As far as rail service is concerned, there are no hard and fast rules as to when they would receive that. Any service would have to get the okay from the Norfolk Southern Railway to use their lines. If that would not work, they would look at other transit options.

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