- The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority's (MARTA) board of directors last week approved a $2.7 billion, 40-year program of funding for approximately $3.9 billion of Atlanta-area transportation projects, also known as the More MARTA plan.
- The 17-project program includes 22 miles of light rail ($2.8 billion) and 14 miles of bus rapid transit ($433.8 million), both of which are entitled to up to 50% matching federal funds. MARTA's project list also includes the locally funded Atlanta BeltLine and streetcar network ($200 million), 26 miles of arterial rapid transit ($102.2 million), local bus ($340 million), general upgrades ($25 million), transit centers ($7 million) and station enhancements ($200 million). Fare revenue will also fund some of the projects, but MARTA officials have indicated they will explore other funding options as well, including public-private partnerships, private investment, joint development and transit-oriented developments.
- MARTA identified more than $11 billion of potential projects but had to reduce that list to match the expected revenue from the 2016 tax year. The expanded bus service portion of the plan is already underway, but MARTA will now begin a public education campaign about the initiative, start putting together definitive budgets and schedules and firming up commitments for the necessary additional financing.
While major construction spending initiatives make for exciting news, huge transportation projects like MARTA's often require years of planning and development, as well as successful navigation of the federal application process before they can come to fruition. Sometimes transportation agencies pick contractors whose shovels are ready to hit the dirt before federal funding is officially released, but the risks are always made clear that the project isn't a go until a federal check is in hand.
However, there are some projects, according to Transportation for America, that have been waiting too long for their share of federal dollars. The advocacy group said that President Donald Trump's Federal Transit Administration is sitting on $1.4 billion of grant money for projects like the Valley Metro Rail's streetcar project in Tempe, Arizona, a light-rail extension in Seattle and platform extensions for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit system. Further, the group alleges that of the more than $2.3 billion Congress has allocated to the U.S. Department of Transportation for new transit construction during the past few years, only $532.8 million has been released.
An anonymous source from the FTA told Route Fifty that the agency is not sitting on money but that the projects Transportation for America has identified have either not met funding requirements or are still in the processing phase.