After repeated setbacks, metro Atlanta has finally managed to win federal support and funding for a transit project. According to U.S. Rep. John Lewis, federal officials have agreed to commit $47 million to help build a east-west streetcar line connecting the Georgia World Congress Center, the Georgia Aquarium, Centennial Olympic Park, Georgia State University and the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District.
The announcement is an important coup for the city and its mayor, Kasim Reed. However, it also represents an obligation to the larger metro region. Federal officials will be watching closely to see whether the city follows through on its part of the deal. City officials have already identified $16 million in funds for capital construction, leaving the project still $9 million short.
Failure to come through with that funding would bode poorly for the far larger transit requests that the metro region will be making to the federal government in years to come, from the Beltline to commuter rail and light rail.
In terms of transportation and economic development, though, the line in question makes a lot of sense, linking some of the city’s major tourist attractions and its major downtown hotel district. As the city’s application noted, it will also “reconnect the eastern and western sections of Downtown Atlanta, which were effectively separated by the construction of Interstate 75/85 in the mid 1950s.”
I’m a lot less certain about other proposed pieces of the proposed streetcar system, such as the north-south line up Peachtree Street. That strikes me more like an amenity than a transportation option, particularly with the MARTA line already running beneath Peachtree for much of its length. But of course, that perception could change if the east-west line proves a major success.