Streetcars get big push

A proposed 12-mile streetcar system for intown Atlanta edged one step closer to reality this week, thanks to Mayor Shirley Franklin and Atlanta’s business community.

Modeled after the streetcar system in Portland, Ore., Atlanta’s light-rail trolley would travel up and down Peachtree, roughly between West End and Lenox Square.

On Nov. 21, Franklin tapped two CEOs to look into financing and construction of the streetcar line, which would serve a projected 21,500 people daily and cost close to $335 million, according to a study commissioned by Atlanta Streetcar Inc., a nonprofit mad up of Atlanta-based developers and corporate officers. Next, a mayoral task force will identify funding sources to turn the concept into a bona fide proposal.

At a Nov. 9 Creative Loafing Political Party, Franklin said, “Portland [built their streetcar line] in less than three years, and I think it’s something we can do.” Neither a formal timeline nor an estimated completion date for the project has been announced.

The push for the streetcar system comes as the city’s population booms, partly due to the recent shift toward more dense and transit-friendly mixed-use projects intown. The streetcar system would speed up the ongoing revitalization of Atlanta’s signature corridor — and offer an attractive transportation option.

An additional streetcar could run between the downtown Centennial Park area and the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District, the study suggests. Both routes would link to the Beltline, a proposed 22-mile loop of transit, greenways and trails circling intown Atlanta, and to MARTA, which could see ridership increase by 2,000 people daily. The streetcars also are estimated to generate $4.4 billion of development.

“We are missing a way to connect the diverse elements of our city together; this streetcar can do that,” says Tom Bell, CEO of Cousins Properties and one of the two men Franklin tapped to promote the streetcar.Franklin also picked Integral Group CEO Egbert Perry to co-chair the Peachtree corridor task force.

Bell says funding sources haven’t been identified yet, but the majority would come from private donations. Franklin says the Atlanta Development Authority also would contribute.

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