MARTA pushing for largest expansion in history

ATLANTA — MARTA is pushing for its largest expansion in history, costing $8 billion but extending rail lines to Alpharetta, parts of north DeKalb County and south DeKalb along Interstate 20 east.

Channel 2’s Lori Geary talked to MARTA board Chairman Robbie Ashe, who says this is about jobs and economic development but admits the challenge is getting additional tax dollars to make it happen.

“You’ve got people who, they want to work, want to live and they don’t necessarily want to drive a car every day.  Expanding MARTA gives them that opportunity,” Ashe said.

“I think that’s critical because then you can be a live/walk city,” MARTA rider Belinda Morrow told Geary.

MARTA gave Geary a look at the bold expansion, which includes five stations north of the North Springs Station, in Sandy Springs, up to Windward Parkway, in Alpharetta.

Another line would connect Buckhead at Lindbergh to the Clifton Corridor and an expansion in South DeKalb County along I-20.

“Obviously, we’re asking people for tax dollars. It’s a hard ask. That said, the financial turnaround demonstrates MARTA’s seriousness, MARTA’s resolve,” Ashe said.

Ashe points to MARTA’s $50 million turnaround the past three years to help convince voters the transit agency is a good steward of tax dollars.

The agency proposes raising the needed $8 billion with an additional ½ penny sales tax from Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton counties, along with a federal match.

Morrow says she would definitely pay the added sales tax because it’s cheaper in the long run.

“I don’t want to sit on 400 in my car.  I’d rather be reading my newspaper on MARTA,” she said.

Ashe says MARTA hopes to have the sales tax issue on the ballot in November 2016.