Gwinnett approves contract with MARTA, calls for March vote

Gwinnett leaders delayed a vote on a referendum until next year

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Within a few months, MARTA could be operating mass transit buses in Gwinnett County.

County leaders approved a contract with MARTA on Wednesday, but then delayed a referendum on the issue until next year.

Gwinnett County Chair Charlotte Nash told Channel 2's Tony Thomas she's disappointed at the pushback on the delay of the referendum until March.

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Democrats call it politics. No matter what it is, it could have a very big impact on transit and traffic jams in the future.

The vote was decades in the making. Commissioners approved hiring MARTA to run the buses and, potentially, run future train service into the county.

The leaders also agreed to let voters have the final say in a referendum on March 19, an about-face from the previously announced November ballot.

“Frankly, this is politics. Let us vote on this matter,” said Gabe Okoye, with Gwinnett Democrats.


“This gave us as much support on the board as was possible to get,” Nash told Thomas.

The commission approved the contract on a 4-1 vote. Commissioner John Heard, who previously said he was against it, voted for it.

“While I still have reservations on this, I feel that, in the interest of cooperation, we need to move forward,” Heard said.

Commissioner Tommy Hunter was the lone dissenter.

Afterward, he texted Thomas to explain his vote, saying: "I think the plan of joining MARTA is misguided, but since it is an issue that will persist long after my term on the commission, I think the folks who have to foot the bill should decide."

A new state law requires that, if the contract between MARTA and Gwinnett County isn't signed before the first of the year, the new regional authority called The ATL, or The Atlanta-region Transit Link Authority, would need to have a say, too. That is another wrinkle that could delay any March referendum.