Atlanta's Rapid Transit, MARTA plans rail expansion to north suburbs.

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Plans to extend the MARTA rail line up Georgia 400 into Alpharetta are causing some concern for Sandy Springs city leaders.

Currently the MARTA Red Line train stops at the North Springs station. Channel 2's Mike Petchenik has learned that MARTA wants to extend north into Alpharetta. It's where they want to put the tracks that isn't sitting well with some.

"Those that don't study history are doomed to repeat it," said Sandy Springs City Councilman John Paulson, referring to the decades-old discussion about extending train service up Georgia 400.

"In the '90s, when it was announced that MARTA was going to be on the east side, home values right along that stretch just plummeted," Paulson said.

So Paulson was surprised when MARTA released a map of its updated proposal with tracks running back up the east side of 400.

"It literally ran through people's backyards," Paulson said.

Paulson and his fellow council members plan to ask MARTA to reconsider that option and move the tracks to the west side of 400.

Homeowner Jack Spence agrees.

"The west side is commercialized. There's larger buffer between 400 and the businesses and stuff on that side," Spence told Petchenik.

In a statement, MARTA spokeman Lyle Harris said:

"The Georgia 400 Transit Initiative to extend high-capacity transit from MARTA's existing North Springs station to the Windward Parkway area has been ongoing for some time, and we welcome the input of all of the stakeholders in the project. The project is in the early stages of planning and no decisions have been made regarding a preferred alternative or the exact location of transit stations.

"In its long-range planning and under federal rules, MARTA is required to objectively consider all alternatives, based on current and future conditions, to meet transportation needs. The rules require MARTA to avoid bias towards a particular alternative. MARTA must follow these requirements to be eligible for federal funding should it become available.

"Several conceptual alternatives are currently under consideration as part of an "early scoping process", where we are seeking stakeholder and community input on the various alternatives as part of the federal process. The alternatives include bus rapid transit, light rail, and an extension of the existing heavy rail service. These selected alternatives best meet the ridership, cost, environmental, land use and economic goals of the alternatives analysis. The stakeholder and community input gathered is critically important in helping MARTA to better determine how to proceed in the planning process."

MARTA rider Xanth Joiner told Petchenik she welcomes more options.

"It doesn't matter what side the train is on just as long as it expands," Joiner said.

Sandy Springs leaders will meet again in two weeks to revise the resolution they plan to send to MARTA.


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John H. Mason

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