Federal infrastructure bill to increase overall spending on MARTA capital improvement projects

Written by David C. Lester, Editor-in-Chief
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The US Senate’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill increases Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funding for MARTA and other transit agencies by 65 percent over previous levels and includes important policy changes that will positively impact transit expansion in the metro Atlanta region.

The new bill serves as both a surface transportation reauthorization as well as a one-time investment in infrastructure, which has been a priority of this Administration. The previous surface transportation bill, the FAST Act, expired last September, and was extended by one-year for fiscal year 2021 at the same levels as fiscal year 2020.

Perhaps most impactful for transit in metro Atlanta are changes to the Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program spearheaded by Sen. Raphael Warnock. The project eligibility for the Small Starts program has been increased from $300 million to $400 million with a federal share of up to $150 million, previously $100 million.

Many of MARTA’s expansion projects are expected to cost between $300-400 million and will now be eligible for the Small Starts program. The first two projects ready for federal support are Clayton Riverdale bus rapid transit (BRT) and the Campbellton Corridor, as they have matching local funds secured and are nearing the ready-to-build stage.

“Thanks to the efforts of Senator Warnock, MARTA’s transit expansion efforts in Clayton County and the City of Atlanta will be among the first to benefit from this bill,” said MARTA General Manager and CEO Jeffrey Parker. “We have at least a dozen projects on our wish list that need federal funding, and this bill will have a major impact on eligibility and amount awarded per project.”

Added MARTA Board Chair Rita Scott, “In addition to expansion funds, federal formula funds for transit will also increase, growing MARTA’s annual amount from around $108 million to $140 million. This will allow us to leverage our local funding to improve transit for our customers, everything from increasing frequency of bus service to providing better real-time information on when that bus will arrive.”

Also included in the bill is more support for transit agencies to transition to zero-emission electric buses, modernize bus and rail fleets, improving accessibility for seniors and people with disabilities, and for overall safety upgrades, making transit safer for customers and pedestrians.

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