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MARTA's future in Gwinnett County now up to voters in March referendum

Gwinnett County and MARTA have green-lighted plans to expand transit services -- and now voters will decide whether to support a sales tax increase supporting the expansion.

GWINNETT COUNTY – MARTA’s board of directors voted unanimously Thursday to enter a contract to expand transit and rail services into Gwinnett County – a move supported by Gwinnett’s county commission.

MARTA’s future in Georgia’s second-largest county is far from decided, however, Gwinnett voters will have the final say in a transit referendum scheduled for March 19, 2019.

The contract comes with a voter price tag – Gwinnett residents will decide for or against a new 1 percent sales tax to pay for the expansion.

ALSO: Is there a plan for more MARTA along the BeltLine?

Currently, Gwinnett residents face a 6 percent sales tax on local purchases and if the transit referendum passes, the sales tax will rise to 7 percent – amounting to an extra dollar in taxes on a $100 purchases, according to the proposal.

If approved, the new 1 percent sales tax would begin July 1. Sales tax projections show that the money would raise about $170 million per year or $5 billion through 2057.

RELATED | MARTA investing $1 billion to replace up to 300 trains by 2024

Under the terms of the contract, MARTA would assume control of six bus routes and five express routes that take commuters to stops inside I-285 currently operated by Gwinnett County Transit.

Gwinnett County's transit plan envisions a heavy-rail line form MARTA’s Doraville Station to Gwinnett Place Mall along the I-85 corridor, along with bus rapid transit and increased local bus service.

Initial bus rapid transit lines are expected to start between 2025 and 2029, and the proposed heavy rail line between Doraville and a new hub at Jimmy Carter Boulevard and I-85 could be built within 20 years.

Gwinnett is expected to grow by up to 500,000 people for a total of about 1.5 million over the next two decades and that transportation options are essential, said Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners member Charlotte Nash.