Friday, October 15, 2010

Atlanta's downtown streetcar wins funding

Posted By on Fri, Oct 15, 2010 at 4:10 PM

AtlantaStreetcar9.jpg
  • Peachtree Streetcar
Congressman John Lewis tells the AJC's Bob Keefe the $70 million project planned to connect Centennial Olympic Park to Edgewood and Auburn Avenues with a streetcar has won a large chunk of the cash it requested:
WASHINGTON — In a major coup for the city of Atlanta, the U.S. Department of Transportation has agreed to grant the city of Atlanta $47 million for the proposed downtown streetcar project, according to U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta.

Lewis' office said he got confirmation of the award in a conversation with DOT Secretary Ray LaHood on Friday morning.

"In my conversation with Secretary LaHood this morning he reiterated his belief that it was a good and necessary project and one that deserved federal funding," Lewis said in a statement. "Not only does this project offer citizens and visitors to the downtown area another option for transportation, it will also provide green jobs and support economic development."

Mayor Kasim Reed in recent months had made several trips to Washington, D.C. to lobby for the project. The downtown streetcar line faced tough competition in a battle for a much smaller batch of funding. (Click here to download a PDF of the city's application — which includes specifics regarding its route, funding, operations and maintenance.)

Updates galore and additional details can be found after the jump.

UPDATE, 1:39 p.m.: Councilman Kwanza Hall, who represents the diverse district that the streetcar will serve, learned the news via text while eating lunch at an Atlanta Medical Center board retreat on the Georgia coast.

"This is the start of something really, really big for our city," he tells CL. "And for generations to come."

As to where the city will find the remaining $9 million to build the project:

"I’m sure we can find some friends in the Atlanta community, our philanthropic partners, to help us close that gap as a team, a family and a city that loves to see ourselves grow."

UPDATE, 2:23 p.m.: Says Matt Ruppert, owner of Noni's Bar & Deli:

I think it’s fabulous. We just got those parking meters and it’s nice to think we’re giving a different mode of transportation a shot.

It’ll be nice to think that there’s potential for folks in downtown who want to hop on the trolley and have lunch on Edgewood and not have to worry about driving. I don’t know if folks can use the trolley late at night, but that would be a great use.

There are whispers of more restaurants coming on the street in the next year or so. It’s going to be that much different. We've seen a lot of progress in last two years and we’re going to see much more in the next year. And the activity we’ll see on the street will merit the trolley access.

UPDATE, 6: 18 p.m.: The city says it plans to ask City Council for cash to fill some of the funding gap. From the AJC:
A $47 million award for the streetcar project is less than the $56 million Atlanta applied for in August. Making the project finance work will depend on the city council's approval of an extra $5.6 million or so toward the project, [Atlanta Deputy Operating Officer Luz] Borrero said. In addition, about $2 million will be shifted to streetcar-related projects. Borrero said that the shifted money was originally budgeted for transportation-related projects within the same corridor, so no area would lose out on project money.

Borrero said the city pared down its request in recent days in talks with federal officials. She said the city council, which approved funds for the original application, had not yet considered the request for additional money.

"We did not know what degree of success this proposed approach would have, but we knew that if we were successful as we have been that we would have an opportunity to demonstrate to the members of the the city council that leveraging a $45 million investment against a smaller increase in our local match would be definitely a worthwhile and absolutely outstanding opportunity," Borrero said.

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