By Collin Kelley
The Atlanta Streetcar project in Downtown was originally set for completion later this year, but utility relocation caused delays pushing the date back to Spring 2014.
City of Atlanta senior transportation advisor Tom Weyandt said at press time that 3,300 feet of track had been laid on Edgewood and Auburn avenues and track work was underway along Peachtree Street from Woodruff Park up to Peachtree Center. The east-west route will run 2.7 miles beginning at the King Center and following Edgewood Avenue to Centennial Olympic Park before looping back around via Auburn Avenue. The route will provide a total of 12 stops that will connect major tourist destinations and local business alike.
Weyandt said a recent major milestone for the project was the installation of electrical substations along Edgewood and Auburn that power the streetcar. The vehicle maintenance shed, which will be located under the Downtown Connector, is also well underway. “All of the track east of the expressway is complete and they are working on resetting curb lines for sidewalks on Edgewood,” he said. “Soon, they will be setting poles for the overhead wire to power the streetcars.”
Weyandt acknowledged that the construction process ha caused “major disruption” to businesses, residents and motorists in the area. “It’s been difficult for the small businesses, especially with the utility relocations,” he said. “There were over 15 different utilities involved along with the city having to make changes to water and sewer.”
Another big milestone for the streetcar will be choosing a system operator, which, despite misconceptions, will not be MARTA. Weyandt said the city is taking proposals for system operators through the end of July. He said four prime contractors that operate other transportation systems around the country have expressed interest in the Atlanta Streetcar.
While construction continues on the initial streetcar loop in Downtown, Weyandt said the city is already in discussions about a further east-west expansion that will connect the system to the Atlanta BeltLine.
“The likely first extension will be to the east, since the BeltLine is only about two-and-a-half blocks away,” Weyandt said, noting that nearly two years worth of environmental studies will have to be completed before any extension is made.
The dormant plan to run a streetcar line on Peachtree from Buckhead to Downtown is likely to be dusted off as well, but Weyandt said there is no timetable or funding for this part of the expansion as of yet.
“The success of the first segment in Downtown is going to be critical to the public’s understandings of what streetcars are all about and an acceptance of this alternative mode of transportation,” Weyandt commented. “It will also be critical to funders’ understanding, too.”