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MARTA Candler Road project to terminate at Avondale station

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MARTA Candler Road project to terminate at Avondale station

Greg Chilik, transit project manager at WSP, announced the locally preferred alternative for the Candler Road arterial rapid transit MARTA project. Photo is a screenshot of the Zoom meeting.

Greater Decatur, GA — MARTA will be adding arterial rapid transit (ART) on Candler Road to connect the Georgia State University Panthersville campus to the Avondale MARTA station. The project aims to create a network of fast, frequent routes on existing high-density, mixed-use arterial corridors.

MARTA held a virtual community meeting on Wednesday, May 17, to discuss the project. The project was promised in MARTA’s 15th amendment, which was funding legislation where DeKalb County could choose certain projects to be put forward and advanced by MARTA, said Greg Chilik, transit project manager at WSP, who is working on the project.

“This Candler ART project advances the overall MARTA ART program by providing fast, frequent, and reliable transit service on proven high ridership corridors,” Chilik said. “Additionally, the project seeks to advance prosperity, connectivity, and equity for a more livable Atlanta region.”

The project is anticipated to be complete by 2025. The locally preferred alternative still has to be voted on by the MARTA board of directors, so it can be advanced to preliminary design.

The estimated capital cost to build the infrastructure is $41.7 million and on an annual basis, MARTA expects to spend $1.6 million in operations and maintenance costs.

ART is a bus service that typically operates in mixed traffic with other vehicles and does not feature exclusive bus lanes. It typically has a short wait time. ART bus stops will feature enhanced amenities with shelters, real-time information kiosks, lighting, and trash receptacles.

The Candler Road ART project is part of implementing DeKalb County’s goals that were created in the 2019 DeKalb Transit Master Plan, which addressed mobility challenges, quality-of-life improvements, and enhancements of future development opportunities. Candler Road was identified as a potential transit improvement in the plan.

“Where we started was a route that had a very well-defined trunk along Candler Road,” Chilik said. “This project will have its southern terminus at the GSU Perimeter College campus or their Decatur campus. It’s going to use Panthersville Road and Candler Road coming north to join with the MARTA rail system.”

MARTA was choosing between two routes. Both routes would start at GSU’s Decatur campus, but one would end at the Decatur station and the other option ended at the Avondale station. The Avondale station option was chosen as the locally preferred alternative.

Avondale alternative uses Memorial Drive, South Columbia Drive and Katie Kerr Drive to arrive at the Avondale station.

Each alternative was scored based on criteria around ridership potential, speed and reliability, cost, stakeholder feedback, long-range plans, equity impacts and economic development potential.

The Avondale station alternative scored the highest out of the two alternatives.

“The reasons are the Avondale station alternative delivers a faster and more reliable trip, it serves more riders than the Decatur alternative, and it has the potential to provide transit options to a higher share of vulnerable populations,” Chilik said. “Additionally, the Avondale station alternative integrates with the long-range plans of MARTA in DeKalb County and has a greater potential to encourage economic development.”

The Decatur station alternative scored higher than Avondale, with lower overall capital costs and lower annual operations and maintenance costs. But that alternative was about one mile shorter.

“However, in the other categories, Avondale station scored higher,” Chilik said. “It was determined to have a higher projected annual ridership and generate more fare revenue. It also faces less peak hour congestion that could interrupt the trip schedule. It travels on roads with more multi-lane miles and there are no at-grade rail crossings in the Avondale alternative.”

As for the next steps, MARTA will enter the design and delivery phase.

“We’re going to bring the project to a 30% engineering design, conduct any necessary environmental studies, continue and bring this to a final 100% design and then go into procurement for construction services, and finally to construct the project,” Chilik said.

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