The Clifton Corridor Proposal. Image via MARTA.
By Matthew Pharr, contributor
The U.S. Census says Metro Atlanta’s population is estimated to be approximately 5.9 million with thousands of new transplants arriving every day. Among the most congested areas of the city is the Clifton Corridor, an economic, educational and healthcare hub that includes Emory University, Centers for Disease Control, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, but lacks direct access to public transit or I-85. MARTA wants to fix that.
Atlanta’s main transit agency is proposing a light rail system to help alleviate some of the traffic congestion woes in this area of the city. According to a press release, the Clifton Corridor Initiative would link MARTA’s Red/Gold and Blue lines, connecting Lindbergh Station to Avondale Station, with a proposed five new stations in between, at an estimated cost of $1.8-$2.1 billion.
Additionally, the MARTA release says that Atlanta will experience “Reduced Congestion & Pollution” with “23,300 riders per day taking cars off the street in America’s 4th most congested city.”
Public opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of the light rail initiative, according to a MARTA survey. When asked to select their top three [MARTA] priority projects 51.3 percent of respondents said the Clifton Corridor Light Rail should be the top priority followed by the Beltline Northeast Light Rail Transit at 50.85 percent and the Beltline Southwest Light Rail Transit polling at 37.02 percent.
MARTA last updated the status of the project on June 7, 2018. It states that they are finishing their environmental impact statement, which, if cleared, could make the initiative eligible for federal funding. MARTA is also in the process of developing phases of construction, contingent on the “potential availability of local funding sources.” MARTA’s timeline indicated that construction of the light rail system will commence in 2022, with full operation (including integrated bus service) of the system by 2026.
“Atlantans recognize that the Clifton Corridor is a priority for this city, connecting all residents to a thriving economic, educational and healthcare hub,” Betty Willis, an Emory senior associate vice president and government and community affairs official said in a statement. “Serving 40,000 employees, 15,000 students and over 2 million patient visits per year, it’s little wonder this light rail line has the highest projected ridership of any More MARTA project. Moreover, based on existing jobs in the corridor and overall readiness of the project, the Clifton Corridor is well positioned to compete against other projects nationally for federal funding, and is on track to be the first step in making Atlanta’s dream of an integrated transit network a reality.”