GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - It was a historic day Tuesday for Gwinnett County as leaders approved a more than $5 billion potential road map for new transit.
For the first time, those plans include commuter rail service -- potentially even MARTA.
Leaders told Channel 2’s Tony Thomas they could ask for an increase in the sales tax as early as November to pay for all of it.
That brings up the question that's been heavily debated for years in the county: Should MARTA ride its rails into Gwinnett?
“We probably could use MARTA out here. It would probably alleviate the traffic and everything,” resident Eric Peterson said.
In a dramatic shift from just a few years ago, county leaders believe public opinion now supports expanding mass transit in Gwinnett. Although some residents still worry about increased bus traffic.
“I think it's already overcrowding. I'm not against public transportation, but in an area like this, how can it be beneficial to anyone?” Ernest Taylor asks.
“I'm just excited that we are to this point,” Gwinnett County chairwoman Charlotte Nash told Thomas.
Nash said she doesn't know in which form expanded bus and potential train service may come to her county, she's just glad the county now has a nonbinding plan to follow.
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The Connect Gwinnett plan recommends a series of expansions across the county, from more bus routes, to rapid transit bus -- with dedicated lanes -- to even a heavy rail line from the Doraville MARTA station up as far as Gwinnett Place Mall.
An unanswered question in the report: What, if any, would MARTA’s role be?
“Sometime between November, but no later than March of 2020, there will be a referendum on transit,” Nash said.
That could include a 1 percent sales tax that could be administrated and operated by MARTA.
In a statement, Gwinnett County commissioner Lynette Howard said:
“I support having a referendum in November to allow Gwinnett residents to have a voice in the transit decision, but before that happens we must reach an agreement that provides the best benefit to our residents.”
Gwinnett officials said they need to decide in August whether to go for the November referendum.
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