June 14, 1999
Volume 51, No. 33
Emory keeps up efforts for more MARTA service in DeKalb
Since President Bill Chace's April 6 statement on MARTA rail service to campus, little more has been said publicly about the transit authority's plans to expand in DeKalb County. But behind the scenes, Emory faculty, staff and students "signed" more than 900 e-mail petitions supporting Chace's position favoring a light rail line from the Lindbergh Station to Clifton Corridor, where it would terminate, as well as extending rail service in South DeKalb from the existing east line out Interstate 20. "We delivered the petitions to MARTA along with a letter from President Chace," said Betty Willis, director of community affairs.
"Our current efforts are to continue to build as much consensus as possible throughout DeKalb on this particular plan. Most everyone we have met or talked with seems to be supportive," Willis said. "But in order for DeKalb to even be considered, it will take a lot of very vocal and strong support from the community." MARTA also has studied the feasibility of a line up Ga. 400, a westside line from the H. E. Holmes station to Fulton Industrial Boulevard and a southside spur near Hapeville. The agency will decide which of the DeKalb routes will compete with the other three and make a final decision on what line will be funded by the end of the year.
Emory will continue to work with the DeKalb and Metro Atlanta chambers of commerce, neighborhood groups, the DeKalb Development Authority, and state, local and federal officials to work toward bringing a light rail line to campus, Willis said. The chambers and the development authority have each passed resolutions consistent with Chace's position. It's not lost on many DeKalb business leaders, politicians and citizens that, despite the fact the county pays the same 1 percent sales tax for MARTA as Fulton does, Fulton has a disproportionate share of rail lines within its borders--34 miles to DeKalb's 15.
Also added to the mix is the new Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) created by Gov. Roy Barnes, who announced the board's inaugural members June 4. The so-called super-agency will oversee and enforce transportation planning in the 13-county metro Atlanta area, and GRTA has been granted sweeping authority by the Georgia Legislature, including the ability to extend rail lines and build and operate mass transit systems.
But "no one seems to really know just how strong a role GRTA is going to play in any of the MARTA decisions," Willis said. And many are waiting with baited breath to see if the transportation authority lives up to its mandate. "That is," said Willis, "to make a lot of tough decisions that politicians often don't have the political will to do."