MARTA's Fulton plan draws ire in South DeKalb
Ken Watts | 10/4/2013, 7:20 a.m.
A MARTA plan to extend its north line from Dunwoody to Alpharetta in north Fulton County is raising eyebrows in South DeKalb.
The plan, which MARTA says is just an idea right now, would continue the heavy rail line for 11.9 miles along Ga. 400 from the North Springs station to Windward Parkway with six new stations along the way.
MARTA says the plan includes possible alternative modes such as light rail transit and bus rapid transit.
Viola Davis, an organizer of the grass-roots community action group Restore DeKalb, called the plan a “travesty.”
She said that a MARTA expansion for North Fulton translates into South DeKalb waiting longer for rail service along I-20 to Stonecrest.
“I know if that is on the drawing board up there, the I-20 corridor just took a big step backward,” Davis said on Oct. 2.
MARTA planners presented the plan at an enthusiastic public hearing in Alpharetta on Sept. 26. The agency also got a flood of e-mails from road-weary commuters who battle Ga. 400 rush-hour gridlock every workday.
Randy Howard of Alpharetta told MARTA that he is convinced that extension of heavy rail is the best way to fix the north-south congestion problem.
“I believe it is the only way to get significant numbers of people out of their cars,” he wrote.
MARTA spokesman Lyle Harris told CrossRoadsNews this week that the North Fulton/Ga. 400 study is at the same stage of development as the most recent South DeKalb plan that was presented to residents at a June 25 MARTA Open House at the Porter Sanford III Center in Decatur.
He said it is not funded but represents the best options for that corridor.
“We’re going through the same process as we are in South DeKalb,” he said. “We are going through the technical steps like environmental and engineering impact studies so that when funding becomes available, we’ll be in a good position to apply for it.”
Joel Edwards, vice president of the Kingsridge Homeowners Association and a Restore DeKalb member, worries that economic disparities might result in a new MARTA line being built first in affluent North Fulton.
“They have tremendous economic development along that corridor,” he said this week. “If there’s some kind of public-private partnership to build a new line, North Fulton’s in a better position to get it funded than we are in South DeKalb, which would be unfortunate.”
Edwards pointed out that DeKalb County residents have been paying into the MARTA system for more than 30 years just as much as Fulton.
“But we haven’t gotten much back for it,” he said.
Willie Pringle, a community activist and a former MARTA bus operator who retired in 2004 after 30 years with the transit agency, said MARTA has been talking about expanding the rail line east into DeKalb since the 1980s.
“They set up blueprints and displays in South DeKalb mall to get feedback from the public,” he said. “But nothing ever came of it.”
At the June open house at the Sanford Center, MARTA senior project manager Janide Sidifall told residents about the agency’s proposed $1.9 billion project to connect the Mall at Stonecrest with downtown Atlanta.