Atlanta Transit System Considering Additional Stations

Fri January 19, 2007 - Southeast Edition
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ATLANTA (AP) The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority’s board of directors has asked staffers to study the idea of building new rail stations that would bridge the gap between current stations that are far apart.

The “infill” stations could “add a lot of new ridership, add to the quality of life for those in Fulton and DeKalb (counties),” MARTA board Chairman Ed Wall said. “It might not cost a whole lot to drop a station in there.”

Nearly three miles separate MARTA’s Arts Center station in midtown Atlanta and the Lindbergh station; a vast gap in transit terms. Most people will walk no more than a half-mile to catch a train or bus, experts say.

And MARTA’s 48-mi. rail system has several similar gaps which frustrate transit officials hoping to attract new riders.

Historically, MARTA has sought to build ridership by expanding its rail lines. But with construction costs at about $100 million per mile, it’s an expensive proposition. MARTA officials are now wondering whether filling gaps with new stations would be a cheaper approach.

The prospect of building infill stations was initially proposed by Lara Hodgson, an executive with Dewberry Capital, an Atlanta development company whose office sits in one of those gaps between midtown and the city’s Buckhead area.

Hodgson, the company’s chief marketing officer, said the idea came to her after she learned that MARTA’s subway tunnel went right under her company’s office building. Yet the nearest station, Arts Center, is more than a 10-minute walk away.

“MARTA’s approach has always been to extend the line, and once they’ve built that, development would come,” said Hodgson, who was appointed last year by Gov. Sonny Perdue to serve on metro Atlanta’s regional Transit Planning Board.

“But what if you did the opposite?” she added. “What if you build where development already is?”

But building the new stations could be difficult. An infill station in the fast-growing area near Hodgson’s workplace, for instance, would have to be built either underground or on a bridge spanning Interstate 85. MARTA officials estimate it would cost $175 million to $300 million.

An infill station was recently built on Washington’s rapid rail system. The project took four years and $120 million to complete.

The new station was built just west of the existing tracks, served by a new stretch of rail about a third of a mile long.

“It was the most challenging thing I’ve ever been involved with, because we had to keep the railroad running” during construction, said John Thomas, acting director of construction with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

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