Cobb light rail line would cost $1.2B to build
by Laura Braddick
lbraddick@mdjonline.com
July 22, 2011 12:00 AM | 7394 views | 30 30 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — The proposed commuter railway from Cumberland Mall to Midtown Atlanta, which could be partially funded by a regional 1 percent sales tax, would cost about $1.2 billion to build and $9.6 million annually to operate, according to the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority. Despite the price tag, the rail line figured into three scenarios for project lists created by Atlanta Regional Commission staff.

GRTA also predicts it would take about 15 years to plan, design and construct the light rail line.

GRTA’s Deputy Executive Director Kirk Fjelstul presented figures on transit costs Thursday to the committee tasked to come up with a list of projects to be funded by a decade-long regional transportation sales tax.

The 12.8-mile commuter line, which would connect MARTA to Cobb’s northwest corridor, is still on the table to receive funding from the tax, along with several roadway improvements in Cobb.

Commission Chairman Tim Lee told citizens and county officials at an update meeting on the transportation tax Thursday afternoon that he supports investing in transit for Cobb and beyond if the region is willing to commit.

“Is it worth making a 10-year commitment to transit if we’re not committed for the long term?” he said. “The ultimate decision is ‘does this region want to make a conscious decision to commit to transit?’ I compare it to when Atlanta decided to build Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport or host the Olympics. This is the crossroads we’re at.”

Lee said that if the regional tax were to result in a successful transit network, the state might consider creating a permanent funding stream for those systems.

Marietta resident Bill Owen, a former Lockheed Martin Aeronautics engineer who has designed a monorail-like transit system, said it was important to educate voters about the long-term commitment transit requires.

“Is there going to be another TSPLOST down the road?” he said. “The public needs to be told if this is going to be a long-term plan before the vote so they can begin thinking this way.”

The Cumberland to Midtown line is the first phase of a two-part project that would eventually connect Kennesaw to Midtown Atlanta.

The second phase, which would run from Kennesaw to Cumberland Mall, did not make the first wave of recommended cuts to a $22.9 billion wishlist submitted by local agencies.

Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews said even though the portion connecting to Kennesaw is unlikely to be funded by the tax, he still supports building the Cumberland to Atlanta line.

“The reality is the majority of traffic is coming from further north (of Cumberland),” he said. “The Atlanta to Cumberland line is part of a long-term plan that needs to go further.”

Also on Thursday, ARC staff presented the regional roundtable executive committee with three scenarios for a final list to be funded by the proposed tax.

All three include partial funding for the Cumberland to Midtown railway, along with funding for improvements to the Interstate 75 and Windy Hill Road interchange.

Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson, who serves as chairman of the roundtable’s executive committee, said the scenarios were not the only options and were meant to guide the leaders in the final stages of the process.

“We’re in crunch time now,” Johnson said. “We are trying to make the best list possible we can with the information that is available.”

The executive committee will meet again on Aug. 4.

If passed by voters, the tax is expected to generate about $6.1 billion over 10 years for specific projects. An additional $1.1 billion will be distributed back to local governments to use on other transportation improvement plans. Cobb County and it’s six cities will receive about $17 million over the course of the tax.

Once the executive committee drafts a final list on Aug. 11, a series of public hearings will be held across the region.

The full roundtable must approve the final list by Oct. 15.

Voters will take to the polls to vote on the tax on Jul 31, 2012.

Cobb has the fourth largest population among the 10 counties that will vote for the metro Atlanta tax.
Comments
(30)
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ahblid
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July 26, 2011
CobbGuy wrote: "More of the same nonsense, no rail needed. MARTA rail does not work well, not enough stations, the bus system is OK."

MARTA rail does not work well? Do you like higher taxes?

According to the National Transit Database it cost MARTA 32 cents per passenger mile on average 2009. Put that passenger on a bus and it costs MARTA 72 cents per passenger mile.

Put another way, every time someone steps on a bus the average ride costs $2.84, while the average ride on the train costs $2.00.

Why do you want the more expensive buses?
WestCobbMan
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July 25, 2011
I don't understand why they continue to try to come up with this expensive, FIFTEEN YEAR project, when in under 5 years, they could have a fully implemented, standard style commuter rail system in place using existing tracks. Well, no, I know why - so commissioners can use some of that tax money to take vacations - er excuse me - "business trips" to "study" the systems in other cities, like all the other transit studies they've been doing since I moved here more than 25 years ago (and we still don't have rail).

We need a traditional AM/PM commuter rail system in Cobb, with several stations - each with large parking lots to take cars off of the roads. I do disagree with one poster in that I do think Saturday service would work, as people would use it to go to the Aquarium and other inner-city attractions to avoid having to drive. All of this could be up and running (if done right) in one-third the time a new light rail system would be up with only one station. Commissioners - will you please THINK before you pre-spend this money??
West Cobb Moose
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July 23, 2011
Looks like something Dwight Brown would be interested in being involved with!!
Duty
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July 23, 2011
We have to accept that the rail will never truly pay for itself. We will always be subsidizing it. If we don't subsidize it, all we have really done is spend a heck of a lot of money on something only the wealthy can afford to use.

I think light rail is the way to create a future here in Cobb - to bring investment and jobs into the area. I do have a problem with how casually some of us cry out against federal government spending while holding our hands out for more of it. Seems, ummm, duplicious?
CobbGuy
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July 23, 2011
More of the same nonsense, no rail needed. MARTA rail does not work well, not enough stations, the bus system is OK. CCT is average at best but cannot meet the needs of the public due to low usage and high cost. Where does Cobb rail fit in to all this? It doesn't.... plain and simple. Again, no rail needed here. No high paid execs, no construction delays, no additional taxes, no rail.
anonymous
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July 23, 2011
Tim Lee is living in "La La Land" and apparently living "LaLa Life" so apart from everyone else he does not no what's going on. WE ARE IN A 4 YEAR RECESSION AND IT IS ABOUT TO SINK EVEN DEEPER - MAYBE 6 OR MORE YEARS TILL WE EVER SEE DAYLIGHT. WHAT GIVES WITH THESE MORONS RUNNING COBB GOVT?

WE NEED COBB GOVT TO SHOW SOME STABLE ABILITY TO CONTROL SPENDING AND MANAGE OUR TAX BASE. STOP SPENDING AND START BEING FRUGAL. I WOULDN'T VOTE FOR TIM LEE FOR DOG CATCHER. *******

That Guy
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July 22, 2011
So many fools that think we do not need a rail line. We need one that goes longer then the one that is planed. Even from the TN line dwon through North Ga. right into Down Town. If you people would learn to give a a car for just a few miles maybe we could beat those we feed many $$$$ to which inturne is used to buy weapons for those who wish to do us harm. I am retired and we more then happy to ride a light rail train to do my shopping etc. My family used the trains we I was a kid in France Germany and other parts of the now EU. Not a big fan of the EU but some things they do get right this being one of the few. Build a Rail Line and build it ASAP.
That Guy
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July 22, 2011
Why not make it from North Cobb to Atlanta. Why just the South Side where people can already get a ride from MARTA just after a short walk. Hell if I can drive from North Cobb to South Cobb I surly can drive a few more miles to the ATL Marta Staions.
Bob Bummer
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July 22, 2011
Yesterday tolls and widening 575 and 75 was the answer to our traffic problems?
Hat
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July 22, 2011
This a very good way for the elite of Cobb County to waste $1.2B.

Go $275,000.00 salary man.

Buy more Mules and start a Mule train to Atlanta.
irked
|
July 22, 2011
Average Metro Atlanta commute time: 50 minutes

Average Cobb Commute time: 30 minutes

We need rail from Cumberland to the Arts Station why?

Seems like a lot of us already live/work/play here.

READ THE STUDIES!
a ginned-up voter
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July 22, 2011
IMPEACH RAIL!
From Kennesaw
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July 22, 2011
I agree with Dustoff. We DON'T NEED any new rail in the metro Atlanta area. We have existing rails that are used every day. GA state owns the rails and is leasing them out. Take them back, to be used in mornings and evenings. Nobody will use the rail on weekends. Our current rails are very convenient to Vining, Cumberland Mall, Smyrna, Marietta, Kennestone Hospital, KSU, Kennesaw, Acworth and the rail running paralell with Canton Road.

"GRTA also predicts it would take about 15 years to plan, design and construct the light rail line."

We don't need any new rails - we already have rails - if our leaders are smart and can understand that.

hotinatlanta
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July 22, 2011
@cocoon dwellers - You are wrong. There won't be a lot of people "who live near or work in the Cumberland Galleria area or neighboring Smyrna" that will ride this thing. If you ever go by the CCT station at Cumberland on a weekday morning, there's not a lot of people who ride the buses and most of these people don't have a car (or only have 1/family) as evidenced by "drop offs" and taxis'. Problem is, you have to drive your car to the train/bus station's parking and risk it being stolen or broken into. Might as well drive to where you're going. TOTAL WASTE OF MONEY AND WE DON'T WANT IT!!!!

Kennesaw Resident
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July 22, 2011
Stop the madness! No rail line in Cobb.
Kowledgeable Rider
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July 22, 2011
"The proposed commuter railway from Cumberland Mall to Midtown Atlanta, which could be partially funded by a regional 1 percent sales tax, would cost about $1.2 billion to build and $9.6 million annually to operate, according to the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority."

Cobb County cannot or will not fully fund the operation of the existing bus routes. In order to cut a little over $2 million in expenses, three routes are being cut August 1, despite an obvious need for partial service along the routes.

It's going to cost $9.6 million annually to operate a rail line to Atlanta? Why would anyone support this? For $9.6 million more a year, you could run a fairly decent bus system.
TRUTH HURTS
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July 22, 2011
HEY LOOK! WASHINGTON HAS MOVED TO COBB COUNTY. EPIC WASTE OF MONEY. WHO KNOWS, I MIGHT DRIVE TO CUMBERLAND AND TAKE A RIDE INTO ATLANTA SO I CAN COME BACK AND TAKE A CAB HOME BECAUSE MY CAR WAS STOLEN WHILE I WAS GONE. IDIOTS!
Dustoff
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July 22, 2011
A prime example of leadership by idiots. Get federal money and spend like made, the hell with what impact it has on the future.

If you want to bring a rail system into Cobb then expand Marta after you clean out its management and get it on the track to at least breaking even.

Not that I want it or would even use it, but it would be easier and cheaper to extend Marta because they already have the trains, the maintenance equipment and trained employees.
anonymous
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July 22, 2011
-- mk - blow smoke wrote on Friday, Jul 22 at 07:03 AM » TIM LEE,.. WE DON'T TRUST YOU ANYMORE!!--

DITTO!
cocoon dwellers
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July 22, 2011
@East Cobber, Stay in your comfy cocoon in East Cobb and be happy with what you have. You may not ever have to leave there or darken the door of a transit station. However, there are plenty of people who will, who live near or work in the Cumberland Galleria area or neighboring Smyrna.
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