(The Center Square) — The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority a $1.75 million federal grant, which the agency says will enable it to “close capital funding gaps” for Atlanta area transportation projects.
“From Georgia 400 bus rapid transit to Roosevelt Highway and rail infill stations in between, the transit needs of this region are far greater than our current funding model supports,” MARTA General Manager and CEO Collie Greenwood said in an announcement.
With the federal grant from the federal transportation department’s Regional Infrastructure Accelerator Program, MARTA said it plans to establish a transit and transit-oriented development “accelerator.”
The agency said it would work with the Georgia Department of Transportation to confirm whether increased property values stemming from transit spending can finance a project. MARTA officials believe new revenue could unlock additional public-private partnerships and secure federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loans.
“Georgia taxpayers, along with those from geographically diverse states across America — California to Maryland — are beneficiaries of the Biden-Harris administration investments that address climate, economic development, and infrastructure needs in communities,” Margaret Kidd, program director of Supply Chain and Logistics Technology at the University of Houston, told The Center Square via email. “It makes sense for the federal government to fund local transportation projects, especially when they have regional or national significance, promote equity, and enhance the accessibility of transportation system for all residents.”
MARTA pulls much of its funding from a sales tax in Atlanta and Fulton, DeKalb, and Clayton counties. While a half-penny sales tax Atlanta levied in 2016 could generate $3 billion for MARTA, agency officials say the Atlanta area still lags behind investments other metro regions such as Los Angeles and Seattle are making.
“Georgia residents pay a significant tax for every gallon of gasoline that is purchased,” Wes Guckert, a certified professional transportation planner and president of The Traffic Group, told The Center Square via email. “The federal government re-pays the automobile users for the amount of gas tax that is collected based upon the amount of driving that occurs in their state.
“It is my opinion that the taxpayers in the State of Georgia deserve to have some of the gasoline tax revenue returned to them through the grant programs noted,” Guckert added. “Anytime you can retrieve tax revenue from the federal government and return it to the taxpayers, it is good for the citizens and their local economy.”