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MARTA officals decide on route for northbound expansion

But there's still a long way before that route becomes reality.
Here's MARTA official route for its proposed northbound expansion.

ATLANTA -- MARTA has officially decided on the route for its northbound expansion into Alpharetta. But there's still a long way before that route becomes reality.

"It's a big milestone for us," said project planner Mark Eatman.

It's big because MARTA officials can now say exactly how a rail expansion northbound would look. It includes five new stops, alongside Georgia 400 to Alpharetta's Windward Parkway.

Said Eatman, "It helps solidify some of the public opinion that we've heard throughout the process."

It also sets the table for the next steps in the process -- a process that shows how this step is still quite small.

"From here to when the project would operate, we're looking at about a decade or so -- about 10-12 years."

Planners will begin environmental study this year, end it in 2017, and hope to open the new line by 2025. But there's one deadline coming very soon: 2016, when officials must have a plan for funding.

"Our east-west-east heavy rail alternative is between 2.2-2.4 billion, so it's a heavy investment," Eatman said.

Federal funds would cover half if MARTA can find local funds for the other half -- roughly a billion dollars. Officials are banking on the surrounding areas and community improvement districts, or CIDs, for financial support. The North Fulton CID submitted a resolution in 2014 supporting the effort.

If MARTA officials can raise a billion years in one year, that will be the biggest step of all.

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