Atlanta has positioned itself to go after federal dollars to expand the still-under-construction Atlanta Streetcar.
The city was recently named a Federal Transit Administration grant designee, allowing Atlanta for the first time to apply directly for federal transit funds.
Before this, the city relied on MARTA to apply on its behalf.
Tom Weyandt, Mayor Kasim Reed’s senior transportation policy advisor, stressed the status doesn’t automatically mean new funds for streetcar expansion.
“When we think about expansion of the system – eighteen months, two years from now when studies get completed – then we’ll have the capacity and the legal authority to seek grants ourselves,” said Weyandt.
The streetcar is set for completion in May. It will run from Centennial Olympic Park to the Martin Luther King memorial site. Weyandt envisions extensions east and west of the current route, ultimately connecting to the Beltline.
Funds for that expansion were included in last year’s regional transportation referendum, but voters rejected it and now Weyandt says Atlanta must be more pro-active.
“Given the fact we didn’t have the kind of success that we thought we would last year that suggests that we need to take care of our own future,” said Weyandt.
The current Streetcar project has a price tag of about $100 million, about half of which the federal government has covered.