ATLANTA — There's a heated debate on Campbellton Road after some community members felt like MARTA broke their promise on a new light rail system.
Thursday, the MARTA board of directors are in favor of building a bus rapid transit (BRT) system along the Campbellton Rd corridor instead of a light rail. The full vote is set for July 14.
Community member Sherry Williams has been invested in the future of Campbellton Rd. since the beginning and believes that improvements are long overdue.
“People have been waiting for so long for transit upgrades,” Williams said.
The area is one of Atlanta's busiest corridors and is used by a historically underserved community. It generally connects the Greenbriar Mall area on the Westside perimeter to the Oakland City MARTA station south of Downtown.
MARTA proposed upgrading the area from buses to light rail in 2018 but that recommendation changed to save money.
According to MARTA, the light rail would cost $340 million compared to $130 million for the bus rapid transit system.
In February of this year, at a community meeting, Williams joined others who felt MARTA had broken a promise.
“If you want to start World War three on Campbellton Road, bring it on,” Williams said at the February meeting.
Her stance has mellowed since learning of the ten years it would take to install a light rail system and the potential disruptions it would bring to the community.
“Sometimes the Mercedes isn't the best," Williams said. "Sometimes you're better with a Lincoln or a Lexus."
When MARTA conducted a community survey between the two options, they found a community divided. While 45% voted in favor of BRT, 43% preferred light rail.
The transit authority said it could deliver BRT much faster than light rail and at a fraction of the cost. Although Williams has taken a lot of criticism from the people still convinced light rail is the way to go, she doesn't see accepting BRT as settling.
“As plans progress, you find out more information,” Williams said.
However, she does agree with area residents who insist the community should reap the benefits of the $340 million that was part of the light rail plan.
MARTA said the lower cost of BRT would allow for sidewalk and street improvements.
In addition, city leaders, including Councilwoman Marci Collier Overstreet and Mayor Andre Dickens, have vowed to ensure that the area sees the full $300 million of investment.