ATLANTA — Channel 2 Action News has learned that state transportation authorities are giving MARTA and the city of Atlanta 19 days to solidify plans to correct scores of problems with the Atlanta Streetcar, many of which state and federal regulators pointed out months ago.
In a blunt letter to the two agencies this week obtained exclusively by Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher, Georgia DOT Commissioner Russell McMurry wrote:
A shutdown in mid-June would be a huge disappointment to streetcar planners who are counting on an upsurge of riders during the summer months.%
Channel 2 Action News reported last month that ridership on the $4 million cars dropped 45 percent in the first three months of this year.
The city projects that revenue for the first 18-months of fare operations will bring in less than 10 percent of the revenue needed to operate the system.
The letter dated May 23 to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and MARTA’s Keith Parker cites a long list of problems which were identified but which streetcar officials have not corrected.
The letter cites staffing problems, training problems, inadequate investigations of accidents and the need to “ensure the safety of the traveling public.”
State Senator Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, calls the letter very embarrassing.
Fort proposed legislation during the last session of the General Assembly that would have moved primary responsibility for operating the streetcars from the city to MARTA.
The bill failed, but Fort is convinced that would be an improvement.
“It really is looking amateurish, and it ought to be given over to people who know what they’re doing,” Fort told Belcher.
The letter says GDOT ordered the streetcar to make 48 corrective actions last August, but only seven have been made.
In November, the state expressed, “immediate concerns,” about a long list of problems, but McMurry wrote, “Nearly seven months later, those concerns remain critical.”
In February, GDOT listed 55 problems that needed corrected. The commissioner says the streetcar has provided accepted responses to just six of those concerns
“There’s no room for interpretation other than: City Hall, you messed up, and if you don’t correct it now, we’re going to shut you down,” Fort said about the letter.
In a statement to Channel 2 Thursday afternoon, McMurry says, “It’s the Department’s expectation that these outstanding items will be resolved.”
The streetcar system began revenue operations Dec. 30, 2014, after long delays and huge large cost overruns. The total cost was about $99 million.
A grant from the Federal Transit Administration provided $47 million. Federal grants will pick up much of the roughly $5 million annual operating and maintenance costs for the first five years.
The city and the Downtown Improvement District, which represents the business community, are supplementing that and will eventually be responsible for all costs.
GDOT will continue to work with the city and MARTA to ensure this project meets federal requirements.
The city sent Channel 2 Action News a statement saying:
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