Potential budget cuts threaten transit expansion plans in metropolitan Atlanta

Submitted by Ingrid on Tue, 04/25/2017 - 08:42

As the county waits breathlessly for the new federal budget from the Trump administration, it is expected that the Atlanta region will suffer from funding cuts to money that has been approved for future transit expansion projects.

Some of the Atlanta region’s largest transit projects are depending on funding from the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts Program. The president’s proposed 2018 budget would limit funding of that program to projects that have already been approved.

Will the expansion projects be able to go forward without federal funding?

It is certainly true that the funding cuts will make it much more difficult for these projects to go forward. When the Atlanta Regional Commission put together its long-term transportation plan last year, it was depending on FTA New Starts money for a number of projects, including MARTA expansions, a Cobb bus rapid transit line to the MARTA Arts Center station, and a transit line connecting MARTA’s East Point station to Jonesboro and Lovejoy in Clayton County.

ARC is depending on federal money for about 45% of the cost of each project. Current state and regional funding, some of which was gained through the recent approval of the Fulton County transportation tax, will likely be insufficient to complete the many projects planned.

The proposed federal budget goes against the needs of the Atlanta region

Mass transit has gained more political support in the Georgia General Assembly, and while MARTA trains are experiencing unprecedented usage following the March 30 collapse of the I-85 bridge, and clearly Atlanta's mass transit systems need to be supported and expanded. It is disheartening to learn that the region will be struggling to pay for the much needed transportation projects that will improve the safety and efficiency of travel for residents.