MARTA seeks to expand rail in Alpharetta

Alpharetta Council not convinced

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ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Traffic gridlock is a way of life in North Fulton, especially along Ga. 400 during rush hour. To help mitigate that, MARTA is seeking to expand public transportation, especially rail service, up to Windward Parkway.

MARTA is in the midst of planning what to do north of the North Springs station in Sandy Springs. Representatives came before the Alpharetta City Council Sept. 21 to give an update on the study and to gain feedback.

And the council had plenty of feedback.

“Alpharetta residents have no interest in heavy rail,” said Councilmember Michael Cross bluntly. His sentiment was echoed by his peers on council.

MARTA is weighing three types of expanded service north of the river, along the Ga. 400 corridor – bus rapid transit, light rail and heavy rail. Heavy rail is similar to what currently dead ends at North Springs, and what MARTA is leaning toward expanding clear up to Windward Parkway with several new stations.

One of the largest criticisms from council was, if MARTA were in fact to expand, the one place it would make sense would be at Old Milton Parkway, next to Avalon and the future Gwinnett Tech campus. However, plans from MARTA do not call for such a station.

Instead, heavy rail stations are suggested for Northridge Road, Holcomb Bridge Road, Mansell Road, North Point Mall and Windward Parkway. A bus station may be placed at Old Milton Parkway.

Despite the fact that MARTA’s area of study encompasses much of the northern suburbs, because it intends to track Ga. 400, Alpharetta will see the most impact, with most of the stations proposed within its borders.

“You need to get community support,” said Councilmember D.C. Aiken to the MARTA representatives. “If you look at the proposed stations, four of the six are in Alpharetta. However, you’ve had so many community meetings but none have been in Alpharetta.”

He and other members of the council suggested Alpharetta residents were not in favor of heavy rail and the density that would be required to support it.

Instead, it was suggested to increase bus service first and gauge the impact.

Janide Sidifall, senior project manager with MARTA, said she expects 23,700 daily riders if the rail system is expanded to Windward, at a cost of at least $1.6 billion to build and annual maintenance costs of $19 million. However, she said MARTA was not sold on any one plan and would look at all alternatives to increase service in North Fulton.

“The consensus is people want something along the Ga. 400 corridor,” Sidifall said. “We’re trying to find the right mix.”

A public meeting will be held Sept. 26 at Alpharetta City Hall. The public will be able to see the suggested plans from MARTA and give feedback. The meeting will be between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.

For more information about the Connect 400 initiative, go online to www.itsmarta.com/north-line-400-corr.aspx or on Facebook at Connect 400.