Dear Decaturish – Unlock gridlock on the Clifton Corridor
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Much attention and controversy has been focused on expanding transit further into North Fulton, and those commuters who have to endure traffic gridlock on GA 400 are quick to say it is greatly needed. No doubt, additional transit would bring relief and hopefully elected officials will allow the voters to decide what they desire to have in their community.
But let’s not lose sight of other MARTA projects on the priority runway also awaiting the opportunity for citizens in DeKalb to decide their fate. One of those projects is an 8.8 mile light rail expansion from the Lindbergh MARTA station to the Avondale Station that would serve the heavily congested Clifton Corridor, which is the largest employment center in the Metro region that has no direct access to MARTA’s rail system or an interstate highway. The over 30,000 employees who work in the Corridor and the many patients, visitors, students and residents who have no choice but to endure wasted time sitting in their cars on the ancillary roads leading to the area, beg for an alternative. The Clifton Corridor is home to Emory, the largest employer in DeKalb and third largest in Metro Atlanta; Emory Healthcare, the most comprehensive health care system in Georgia; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta; the VA Medical Center and other organizations that contribute billions of dollars annually into the region’s economy.
Since the 1960s, regional planning maps have included a proposed transit line connecting the Clifton Corridor into the MARTA system and the current proposed light rail project has been progressing through the federal planning process for over 15 years. Countless community meetings and stakeholder planning sessions have taken place over the years and there is overwhelming support in the Corridor area for this light rail line. In addition to providing an option for those already commuting to the Corridor, it would give new transit access to thousands of other jobs for commuters from the Avondale Station and would serve the DeKalb Medical Center and the many large commercial and residential redevelopments already planned along the route.
The Metro region is already decades behind in expanding MARTA and the long-awaited transit relief for the Clifton Corridor is still stuck in transit funding gridlock. Legislation currently before lawmakers at the state Capitol would provide the funding desperately needed to build the Clifton Corridor line and other rail expansion MARTA needs to keep our region competitive and provide services our citizens’ want and need. Rather than let a handful of elected officials decide our region’s prosperity and fate, it’s time to let the voters weigh in on their future and those of generations to come. We have an opportunity to unlock transit funding gridlock and we cannot afford to wait any longer.
Betty E. Willis
Senior Associate Vice President, Government & Community Affairs, Emory University
Executive Director, Clifton Community Partnership
President, Clifton Corridor Transportation Management Association