MARTA breaks ground on new Atlanta transit line

MARTA broke ground Thursday on its first new transit line in more than 20 years.

The Summerhill bus rapid transit line represents the first fruits of the agency’s planned Atlanta expansion. And it’s the region’s first bus rapid transit line. Here’s what you need to know.

The project: The Summerhill line will stretch 2.4 miles along Hank Aaron Drive and Capitol Avenue before looping around downtown. It will serve key destinations such as Georgia State University, the Georgia Capitol and Atlanta City Hall.

What’s bus rapid transit? Rapid bus lines are designed to mimic rail lines. The vehicles travel mostly in exclusive bus lanes and stop less frequently than regular local buses. Passengers board at stations that feature seating, shelters and real-time information about arrivals. They pay before they board.

More details: The buses will run every 10 to 15 minutes. It will take 12 to 15 minutes to travel from one end of the route to the other. In February, MARTA awarded a $65.9 million contract to Archer Western Construction to build the line. It’s expected to open in summer 2025.

The transit agency will call its bus rapid transit service “MARTA Rapid.”

The big picture: The Summerhill line is part of MARTA’s $2.7 billion expansion in Atlanta. City voters approved a half-penny sales tax to pay for the expansion in 2016.

The expansion plan includes 17 projects. But MARTA and Mayor Andre Dickens recently agreed to prioritize nine projects.

The priorities include other bus rapid transit lines along Campbellton Road and the Clifton Corridor. They also include an extension of the Atlanta Streetcar to Ponce City Market, the renovation of Five Points station and a platform extension at Bankhead station.

Similar rapid bus lines are planned in Clayton County, along Ga. 400 in north Fulton County, along the top half of the Perimeter and in Gwinnett County.

What they’re saying: MARTA CEO Collie Greenwood called Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony “a milestone for MARTA, for the city of Atlanta, for the region, for the residents living in the area.” Dickens said the line would connect neighborhoods, aid affordable housing and drive economic development.

More information:

By David Wickert, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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