The Works

Atlanta Transit Agency Pushes Sales Tax for $8 Billion Expansion Plan

Plus Calgary can now fast-track an LRT line, and more in our weekly New Starts.

MARTA’s Oakland City station in Atlanta (Photo by DeKalb)

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Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

MARTA Pushes Sales Tax to Fund Major Expansion
Atlantans, especially white ones, have had an ambivalent relationship with the city’s rapid transit system, but attitudes have begun to come around as the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority-run system has become a selling point for businesses seeking to relocate to the South’s premier metropolis. Last year, voters in Clayton County, southeast of the city, opted to join the MARTA district, which covers Fulton and DeKalb counties, and a recent poll shows majority support for bringing Gwinnett County, in the city’s northern suburbs where resistance to MARTA has been strongest, into the district as well.

Seeking to capitalize on that momentum, MARTA is backing a proposal for a new sales tax in Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton counties.

The Atlanta Progressive News reports that the sales tax would pay for $8 billion worth of new rapid transit lines in Fulton and DeKalb, including an eastward extension of MARTA’s east-west Blue Line into south DeKalb; a new bus rapid transit line along I-20 east from downtown; a light-rail line along the Clifton Corridor in the city’s northeast quadrant; and a northward extension of the Red Line along Georgia Route 400, with exact mode to be determined.

The tax MARTA wants would require changes to a state law recently passed that allows local governments to put one-cent sales taxes for transit projects before the voters. As currently written, the law does not allow proceeds from these taxes to be dedicated to a specific transit agency and limits them to five years’ duration. MARTA is seeking to have a half-cent sales tax dedicated to it over the next 42 years, which would provide enough revenue to cover half the cost of the proposed expansions. MARTA would seek bond financing and federal funds to cover the rest.

With Gwinnett Clayton County now in the district, it would also be likely that MARTA would have to propose extensions beyond Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, most of which is in the county, to gain support of county officials there.

A new rail link will cut travel time from the airport to central Barcelona. (Photo by Chenines)

Work Begins on Barcelona Airport Rail Link
Global Rail News reports that construction is now underway on a new regional rail link that will connect Barcelona’s airport to the city center.

The 4.5-km (2.8-mile) line will extend an existing line beyond El Prat de Llobregat rail station beneath an active airport runway to new stations at airport terminals 1 and 2. The 2.8-km (1.75-mile) tunnel portion will be excavated by a tunnel boring machine to avoid disruption to the runway.

The line, which has been in the works for several years, has a price tag of €268.4 million ($297 million U.S.). When completed in 2018, the line will cut travel time from the airport to central Barcelona to 19 minutes.

A joint venture of Copcisa, Ferrovial-Agroman and Sacyr is building the line. The Spanish government, which is picking up the tab for the line’s construction, has yet to award the systems and operating contracts.

Calgary’s Green Line Goes Straight to LRT
Instead of beginning as bus rapid transit, Calgary’s planned Green Line transitway will enter service as a light-rail route thanks to a pledge of C$1.5 billion ($1.15 billion U.S.) from the Canadian federal government, CBC Calgary reports.

Thanks to a pledge from the Canadian federal government, Calgary could have Green Line light rail by 2024.

That amount is enough to cover one-third of the line’s projected C$4.5 billion ($3.46 billion U.S.) cost.

The money is to come from a new federal Public Transit Fund, which will provide permanent support for large-scale public transit projects.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who had been pushing for stepped-up federal funding for infrastructure projects, described the impact of the funding at a June 24th news conference in the city’s Mount Pleasant section: “Soon, if you can imagine it, we will see state-of-the-art light-rail transit emerging from downtown, crossing the river into this escarpment, serving upwards of 40 million passengers a year.” The Mayor said the project could create as many as 23,000 jobs.

“Soon” is slated to be 2024, seven years after construction of the actual line begins. Preliminary work has already begun on road improvements designed to accommodate the initial southeast Calgary busway. The line will run from Calgary’s northern precincts through downtown to the southeast.

The city has committed C$52 million ($39.99 million U.S.) in tax surpluses through 2024 toward the line’s construction cost. If this commitment is extended out 20 years, it would cover another third of the cost. Whether the Alberta provincial government will pledge to cover the remaining third remains an open question.

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.

The Works is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.

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Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.

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Tags: transportation spendingtransit agencieslight railtaxes

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