A MARTA Train. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
By Matthew Pharr, contributor
In a unanimous vote cast Sept. 6, the Metro Atlanta Transit Authority (MARTA) Board of Directors approved a contract to extend bus and rail service into Gwinnett County.
The proposal would extend the heavy-rail line along the I-85 corridor from the Doraville Station to Gwinnett Place Mall, as well as increasing local bus routes and bus rapid transit, a transit system that often requires widening streets for bus-only lanes, according to a media release.
Newly elected MARTA CEO, Jeffery A. Parker, tweeted the expansion announcement to his page, saying “MARTA Board of Directors unanimously approves contract to extend transit service to Gwinnett County; voters will decide in March 2019 countywide ballot referendum.” Most replies to Parker’s message has been critical.
However, officials are more optimistic. “I am excited about the vote made by the board today and what the contract between MARTA and Gwinnett County will mean to the people of Gwinnett and across the region,” Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said in a statement.
In the past, Gwinnett voters have been overwhelmingly opposed to MARTA’s expansion, however, the racial and political demographics of the county have changed significantly since the last expansion vote in 1990. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the total population of Gwinnett County in 1990 was 352,910. It is now approaching 1 million residents and is far more ethnically diverse.
On March 19, 2019, these voters will be able to decide the fate of the MARTA expansion when they head to the polls. If the measure is approved, a one-percent sales tax would be collected in Gwinnett County to fund transit operations, expenses and the expansion through 2057, according to press materials. MARTA Projections show the sales tax would raise approximately $170 million per year or $5 billion during that period.