Petition opposes expansion of Atlanta Streetcar

The plan to expand the Atlanta Streetcar is another step closer to reality. A MARTA committee has now picked a company to do the final design work for its extension onto the BeltLine, but not everyone is happy that the project is moving forward.

Jennifer Bentson and Julia Neighbors live down the street from each other in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. They love where they live, but both are concerned about the Atlanta Streetcar expansion.

"It will literally go right here in front of my house," Bentson said. "I don’t think they’ve understood what the impacts are to this neighborhood."

"It will fundamentally change the way I live in my home, the way I engage in my community," Neighbors said.

The two are part of a neighborhood coalition of more than 300 neighbors against the project.

The extension would take the streetcars from downtown Atlanta through the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood eventually meeting up with the BeltLine near Krog Street Market and continue to Ponce City Market.

This week, MARTA picked a firm to handle the project’s final design. 

"This should be positive for our city," said Clyde Higgs, President and CEO of Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.

Higgs says the BeltLine was always intended to include transit to expand access to all groups. Higgs says some other cities that have something similar to the BeltLine also have transit and it has been successful. He says here they will be focusing a lot on design to make sure the BeltLine people love remains intact. 

"When I hear some of the anti-transit rhetoric, first of all, I get it, but really when you get right down to it, it is a fear of aesthetics and experience," he said.

It will cost about $230 million to build the extension and funding will come from the More MARTA half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2016.

For Bentson, she is not against transit, she just thinks something else would be better.

"Public transportation near the BeltLine I think is a great thing, but this is not the answer," she said. "It’s too expensive and it just doesn’t make sense."

Construction is set to start in 2025 with service beginning in 2028.

The neighbors against the project have created a petition and it has more than a thousand signatures.