MARTA Looks For Federal Funding To Expand Rail Service

MARTA wants to expand its heavy rail service past its eastern-most station, Indian Creek.

The agency is looking for federal funds to extend its blue line, by adding five stops, as far east as Stonecrest Mall.

Benjamin Limmer, MARTA’s assistant general manager, said on average it costs $250 million per mile for heavy rail.

“It’s more feasible to extend the system that we already have to serve south DeKalb County as opposed to switch technologies to a light rail system,” Limmer said.

He said light rail typically ranges from $75 to $150 million per mile.

Joseph Hacker, a professor at Georgia State in the Department of Public Management, said any public transit project needs to reach a large enough population center to justify expansion.

“I don’t know that Stonecrest has the density to support it,” he said. “I don’t know that it has that magnitude that really makes transit successful.”

Hacker said MARTA should run buses along the proposed route first to get a read on the demand for extending the train line.

But Limmer said the agency has no current plans to add buses although that is something it could do to establish a market.

A draft of the plan is due to the Federal Transit Administration by next spring. The transit authority will apply for federal funds to cover up to half the cost of the rail expansion project.