Archive for October, 2011

MARTA Rep.: ‘We’re at the end of the beginning’

Talks about Clifton Corridor transportation project continue

Residents take a close look at possible transit options in the Clifton Corridor.
by Jaclyn Hirsch for Virgina-Highland/Druid Hills Patch

 

Residents packed a conference room at the Emory Conference Center Hotel Tuesday night to have one final discussion about transportation options in the Clifton Corridor area.

Although MARTA project manager Jason Morgan said the end of the public input process is “the end of the beginning,” residents were eager to study the three options that would bring rail or bus service — or a combination of both — from Lindbergh Center in Buckhead to Cheshire Bridge Road, Emory University, and the Centers for Disease Control.

Some options would extend the line to the Avondale Estates MARTA station and connect North Decatur and Clairmont Road and DeKalb Medical to the line.

This final public meeting gave residents the opportunity to hear from project managers and have one-on-one discussions with those working on the project.

Morgan said the team has been working to balance the needs of residents and commuters in the area and reminded residents that they have a long way to go on the project. Conversations about the project began more than two years ago with 36 options on the table.

“This process is not done,” he said. “This is a journey, essentially, and a partnership.”

The project would cost roughly $700 million and no plans for funding have finalized.

The Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable voted earlier this month in favor of a $6.14 billion list of transportation investments, which included the Clifton Corridor project. Projects on the list would be funded by a penny sales tax — if voters approve — when it’s placed before them on the 2012 elections ballot.

Druid Hills resident Ken Gibson said regardless which option gets chosen, he wants to see action soon.

“I feel strongly that something needs to be done and the longer we wait, the harder it gets,” Gibson said Tuesday night.

Morgan said rumors that MARTA plans to “bulldoze” Briarcliff Animal Hospital on Johnson Road in Morningside are false. He said there are no plans to level any businesses at this time, and only the city and county would have the authority to do so if it became part of the plan.

He also said all transportation options on the table involve building tunnels that will go under Lenox Road.

Morningside resident Carey Aiken said he supports the light rail option and feels the heavy rail option would create “a big transportation mess in an area that’s already congested.”

“Good quality of life would be ruined,” Aiken said.

He said the light rail option is “the vision of the future” and could see himself using that line instead of driving to the 10th Street MARTA station or Lindbergh Center.

Morgan said he expects the MARTA board of directors will approve one of three options in December and urged residents to submit comments and feedback by Nov. 8. Residents can submit comments on the MARTA website.

The options

The three transportation options include bus service, light rail service and heavy rail service.

The 8.3-mile bus service would connect Lindbergh Center to Avondale Estates with stops in Cheshire Bridge, Sage Hill, CDC/Emory, Emory Clairmont Campus, North Decatur/Clairmont, Suburban Plaza and DeKalb Medical Center.

This route would serve about 15,300 riders daily and create about 15 jobs per acre.

The 8.3-mile light rail option would link Lindbergh Center to Avondale Estates with stops in Cheshire Bridge, Sage Hill, CDC/Emory, Emory Clairmont Campus, North Decatur/Clairmont, Suburban Plaza and DeKalb Medical Center.

This route would serve about 17,500 riders daily and create about 15 jobs per acre.

The final option, a 4.7-mile heavy rail line, would connect Lindbergh Center to Cheshire Bridge, Sage Hill, CDC/Emory, Emory Clairmont Campus and North Decatur/Clairmont.

This line would provide direct service to Airport, Doraville and North Springs stations without transferring at Lindbergh. Local bus service would be available to connect to Avondale Estates.

This line would see roughly 18,400 rides daily and create 17.6 jobs per acre.

All three options have an optional station in Morningside.

For more information on the Clifton Corridor project, visit the Clifton Corridor portion of the MARTA website.

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October 26, 2011 at 5:57 pm Leave a comment

Atlanta Marathon Comes to Our LLCC Community


On Sunday, 30 October, the Atlanta Marathon will wind its way though 26.2 miles of Atlanta neighborhoods. LLCC neighborhoods will play host to this marathon along portions of Shepherds Lane, LaVista Road and Lindbergh Drive.
Volunteers from The Center for Puppetry Arts will be along the route in our community to cheer the runners on. They will be dressed in costumes and carrying puppets and noisemakers (according to LVPCA resident Lisa Rhodes). Come out and join this fun-loving bunch to offer encouragement to the runners.

To see the full course map, click HERE.

This course will necessitate full or partial closing of these streets. Below is a matrix showing expected closures:

Shepherds Lane 8:25 AM – 12:10 PM Entire Street
LaVista Road 8:30 AM – 12:25 PM Westbound Lane
Lindbergh Drive 8:35 AM – 12:40 PM Westbound Lane

October 16, 2011 at 1:48 pm Leave a comment

Transportation Roundtable job is much harder because the state doesn’t fund transit

From SaportaReport.com
 

It all boils down to this.

All the hand-wringing that’s going on this week with the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable can be traced back to one player — the State of Georgia.

The Roundtable has until Oct. 15 to submit its final list of projects that will be included on a penny sales tax referendum that will be presented to voters next year. The tax is estimated to generate $7.2 billion over 10 years with 15 percent of that will go directly to local governments, leaving $6.1 billion to be divvied up by the Roundtable.

The leaders in the 10-county region are agonizing over whether it should add $80 million (in addition to the current $100 million) to fully fund the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority’s Xpress buses over the next 10 years by taking away from four other transit investments.

The Roundtable will meet on Oct. 11 to try to find consensus on the four toughest amendments that must be addressed before the Oct. 15 deadline.

An amendment proposed by Henry County Chair B.J. Mathis would remove that $80 million from MARTA’s allocation to keep its system in a state of good repair, from the Atlanta BeltLine streetcar project, from the Clifton Corridor transit line and from Cobb County’s light rail line.

Also on the table is another amendment proposed by Douglas County Chair Tom Wortham to shift $34.5 million from MARTA’s state of good repair to go to fund GRTA’s Xpress buses.

A third amendment, submitted by DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis, would shift $297 million of funding along Georgia 400 towards expanding MARTA east line along I-20 corridor.

The fourth amendment was proposed by Clayton County Chair Eldrin Bell to invest $350 million in the Atlanta to Griffin commuter rail line, and the proposal has called for reducing all other transit projects by 10 percent to pay for commuter rail.

Watching this agonizing tug-of-war between the various jurisdictions chipping away at proposed transit projects is painful.

And while regional leaders are tempted to turn on each other, the real culprit here is the state and its lack of funding for transit, in particular, and transportation in general.

GRTA is a state agency that was created to be a vehicle for the state to become a regional player in transit. But GRTA has been lobbying to get $180 million from the metro Atlanta tax to fully fund its system rather than rely on any financial support from the state to pay for the regional bus system.

Earlier in the Roundtable process, a dramatic moment occurred when Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Roundtable Chairman Bucky Johnson took advantage of a break in a meeting to go see Gov. Nathan Deal. At that meeting, Deal assured Reed and Johnson that he would help the state invest $80 million in GRTA over the next 10 years.

That’s how the GRTA allocation in the project list was reduced from $180 million to $100 million.

Now GRTA backers are trying to restore that $80 million because they say the governor can not make a financial commitment to support the regional bus system because it would be up to the legislature.

Mathis actually called on state Sen. Doug Stoner (D-Cobb) to describe the appetite for GRTA funding in the legislature.

“The state has not shown a commitment at this time,” Stoner said. But Stoner added that he did not believe that funding for GRTA should come out of MARTA’s state of good repair, which is essential to having a regional transit system.

Atlanta Mayor Reed said that when the economy recovers, the state will be in a much better financial position than local governments that have a ceiling on what they can collect on property taxes. And he continued to believe the state would rise to the occasion to invest in a regional transit system.

“The governor was willing to try to get it figured out,” Reed said.

The mayor also added that on Wednesday, Oct. 5, the state had “a wonderful meeting around transit governance” — an effort that would create an umbrella entity to oversee all the transit operations in the Atlanta region.

“I think the transit governance conversation really is the key to getting the state interested in long-term funding,” Reed said.

Speaking about the entire Roundtable experience, Reed said: “I never expected this to be an easy process. I focus more on results than the journey.”

For decades, metro Atlanta has been under-investing in MARTA — the region’s largest transit system by far. Most of that can be attributed to two facts — the lack of state funding and the fact that only two counties (Fulton and DeKalb) provide financial support for the system.

Until the state becomes a significant player in transit funding, the region’s leaders will continue fighting over the limited dollars that exist.

And while it would be easy to get frustrated by the situation, MARTA General Manager Beverly Scott has managed to remain hopeful that the process will lead to a favorable outcome for the transit backbone of the region.

“There’s a solution,” Scott said. “We have come too far to have it fall apart now.”

October 11, 2011 at 10:06 am Leave a comment

Metro Atlanta turning winning transit season into losing one

By Guest Columnist COLLEEN KIERNAN, director of the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club for SaportaReport

The way the Transportation Investment Act (TIA) is playing out in the Metro Atlanta Region feels a lot like the 2011 Braves season. It started out with a lot of hope and promise, primed with new leaders at the helm who would be able to undo years of disappointment.

In the early stages, it stumbled a bit, but by mid-season, it was in good shape.  After the All-Star Break, aka the August 15 deadline for a draft project list, boosters claimed the list was about 55 percent transit, 45 percent roads.

Although I’m not aware of anyone who thought the draft list was perfect, it did represent the first time that the 10-county region, as a whole, was going to make a significant and (somewhat) ongoing commitment to funding transit. That commitment, like the ballclub, is starting to crumble in the home stretch.

The team that blew a long lead was the same team that had been looking good enough to run up that long lead.  The TIA showed a similar appearance vs. reality profile: the 55 percent transit number was always a bit misleading.

That figure considered only the 85 percent of the pot that the Roundtable is allocating, omitting the other 15 percent that local jurisdictions get to spend on their own local projects – almost certainly roads.

The 55 percent also counts federal money that is tagged for projects, which makes the transit percentage appear higher than it is. The true final breakdown is likely to be around 40 percent transit / 60 percent roads – a discouraging result in light of the fact that road projects have a dedicated revenue stream, the gas tax; transit has limited regional and no state funding.

Even if the TIA were dedicated entirely to transit, overall regional spending on transit expansion would still fall short of projected roadway spending over the life of the tax. That long lead was not so long after all, not so long it couldn’t be blown when confronted by determined opponents.  The difference between the Braves and TIA is that the opponents are supposed to be members of the TIA team.

But the most troubling element of the TIA draft list is that a segment of the Northern Arc expressway, an intensely controversial road that was repeatedly contested finally defeated by a diverse coalition of organizations (including Sierra Club) nearly a decade ago, was quietly slipped onto the list as project TIA-GW-060 with little public discussion regarding the true impact and ramifications of this decision.

The connection between TIA-GW-060 and the historical Outer Perimeter / Northern Arc concept is undeniable when properly articulated (click here  for a visual explanation), and we are concerned that once voters fully appreciate the magnitude of the decision to resurrect a divisive proposal that was resoundingly rejected by the public years ago, this project will become a poison pill that could endanger passage of the tax next year.

While no amendments were offered that would strip the Northern Arc, Roundtable members have started hacking away at the transit component. Cobb County, which got the biggest allocation of transit money, proposed moving $271.5 million from their transformative rail project from Atlanta to Cumberland to making a portion of Windy Hill Road an expressway and adding bus service from Acworth to Atlanta.

While Cobb insists that the feds will step in and keep the rail project viable, the project will “live” on a wing and a prayer instead of a reliable stream of revenue.

More encouraging was a proposal from DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis to  redirect road money from a massive widening and reconstruction  of GA-400  to the proposal for rail along I-20, but the amendment received little support from fellow Roundtable members. It was then revised to take from the Clifton Corridor rail project instead, and was ultimately tabled until next week.

If this “robbing Peter to pay Paul” exercise is approved, it may be enough to satisfy South DeKalb constituents who have promised a “Vote No” campaign if I-20 East rail is not on the list, but will seriously jeopardize the viability of the Clifton project and likely lose another constituency that otherwise  could have enthusiastically supported the tax.

The more offensive example of “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” however, is the proposal to fully fund Georgia Regional Transportation Authority’s (GRTA) Xpress buses at the expense of MARTA maintenance and the Beltline and Clifton Corridor rail projects.

As Senator Doug Stoner pointed out, it’s time for the State to step up to the plate on GRTA funding. And finally, despite  overwhelming  support from all corners for adding the Griffin commuter rail line, all it got was $20 million for additional studies, which while taken from another bad road project (the Tara Boulevard “super arterial”) is good, but not enough.

Sierra Club can’t see any major public constituency that will be truly excited about supporting the T-SPLOST as the project list currently stands — not just on election day but also during the critical campaign season leading up to the vote.

Anti-tax activists and Tea Party types will oppose this new tax simply because it’s a tax.

Should the T-SPLOST fail to inspire significant support from environmental and pro-transit voters, this could be the death knell for passage of the 2012 referendum. The Roundtable would be much better served by focusing on gaining the support of the ever-growing and varied group of pro-transit voters.

If they do, Atlanta can take its place among other forward-looking metropolitan areas that have positioned themselves for enduring success in the 21st century. And then the Roundtable’s last regular season game, despite dragging on for 13 innings, will end up in the “W” column, and we won’t have to once again “wait ‘til next year.”

October 10, 2011 at 10:25 am Leave a comment

NPU-B Denies Rezoning for Sembler Co. Project

From Buckhead Patch

NPU-B Tuesday night turned down for the second time the Sembler Co.’s rezoning request for a retail project at Piedmont Road and Lindbergh Drive.

Sembler sought to rezone land in the corridor along Morosgo and Adina drives from high density residential to high density commercial for what has previously been described as a grocery store. But NPU Chairperson Sally Silver and other NPU members have expressed concern that the project would turn out to be of much larger scale than a typical supermarket.

The NPU previously rejected the rezoning for the SPI-15 area near the Lindbergh MARTA Station because Sembler didn’t have a site plan to show the board. Silver on Tuesday said the company had indicated its willingness to offer a “conceptual” site plan, but the board again unanimously rejected the rezoning request.

Silver had called the NPU into executive session to take the vote, although three reporters remained in the Hyland Center at Christ the King Cathedral during the discussion and vote.

NPU members expressed concern that Sembler is seeking to build a “big box” store, possibly a Lowe’s, at the site. Silver said that such a store would bring in traffic from outside the area, countering SPI-15 aims to make the site a vibrant urban area of high-rise apartments and condos with small, local shops and restaurants. The area, near Sembler’s Home Depot-anchored Lindbergh Plaza, consists of apartments and shops around the Lindbergh MARTA station.

October 6, 2011 at 10:09 am Leave a comment


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