Friday, July 26, 2013

Light rail or maglev between Turner Field and downtown? It's under consideration.

Posted By on Fri, Jul 26, 2013 at 12:32 PM

Says Reed about discussions: Its not just a drawing on paper
Negotiations on where to build the new Atlanta Falcons stadium are still ongoing. But talks with the Atlanta Braves about its lease at Turner Field are already underway.

And those talks, Mayor Kasim Reed says, include building transit between Downtown and Turner Field that a.) doesn't involve a bus and b.) doesn't just run on game days.

Mayor Kasim Reed today told us that his administration is "looking at all of our options" about transit - possibly light-rail or maglev, as Maria Saporta reported this morning in the Atlanta Business Chronicle - that would move Braves fans more efficiently and serve adjacent Turner Field neighborhoods such as Summerhill, Peoplestown, and, to some extent, Mechanicsville. Not to mention whatever mixed-use development that could one day rise from the sea of parking lots surrounding the ballpark.

"We're looking at all of our options," he said.

Atlanta Chief Operating Officer Duriya Farooqui says the city thinks dedicated transit could improve connectivity and "significantly enhance" the possibility of economic development around the stadium and in adjacent communities.

Invest Atlanta, the city's economic development arm, is preparing to ask developers to formally submit their visions for the properties surrounding Turner Field, which the Braves lease from the Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority. That lease expires Dec. 31, 2016. Developers pitched ideas earlier this year but a formal request has not yet been issued by Invest Atlanta.

The team, city officials, and some surrounding residents would like to see the parking lots adjacent to the stadium include residential, mixed-use, and other uses - especially retail that could accommodate the underserved nearby communities, such as a grocery store. Key to its success will be making it connect not just to surrounding neighborhoods but also the rest of the city. Transit could help accomplish that goal.

Linking the area to MARTA rail and Downtown is not exactly a new plan. Organizers of the 1996 Olympics considered linking the two with transit but shelved the plan due to financial constraints.

"Now, because of [transit] solutions that are more cost effective and other agreements that may allow us to do this in a manner that makes economic sense, it's more attainable," he said. His staff is studying those plans and others to determine what might work best for the communities and stadium at minimum public cost.

Reed declined to specify routes or which funding sources were being considered, but noted that the plan "is not just a drawing on paper."

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