By John Schaffner

Buckhead is not part of the plan, but the Atlanta City Council on July 20 authorized Mayor Shirley Franklin to partner with MARTA to study and prepare an application for federal stimulus funds to return streetcars to Peachtree Road in downtown and Midtown.

Central Atlanta Progress and the Midtown Alliance have pledged to contribute up to $300,000 each for studies of the streetcar line, which initially would run along Peachtree Street from downtown to Midtown and from the King Center to Centennial Olympic Park.

The city, MARTA, the Midtown Alliance and Central Atlanta Progress would together apply for up to $300 million in federal stimulus dollars for the capital costs of the project.

Not all members of the City Council voted for the $600,000 study, which is to result in a formal request for the federal stimulus grant. That grant request must be submitted by Sept. 15, which pressured the council to make a quick decision. The proposal went to the Finance Committee just days before the vote.

Dist. 9 Councilwoman Felicia Moore, who represents a small part of Buckhead’s western border as well as parts of northwest Atlanta, said she could not vote for funding a study of a Peachtree streetcar when her district still has unpaved roads, lacks sidewalks and has streets with no curbs.

Councilman C.T. Martin called the proposal another case of “Atlanta being big on glamour … when it has not dealt with the basics.”

Councilwoman Anne Fauver, who has declared she will not run for re-election to represent northeast Atlanta, said she had many calls from constituents who are developers and residents, as well as people outside her district, urging her to vote against any Peachtree streetcar.

During a long discussion of the merits of the streetcar and the parts of the city it would serve, council members added five amendments to the legislation to authorize the study. Most of the amendments requested that, as funds are available, future studies be conducted on extending the line along Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, to Grant Park, to the downtown government center district and to Fort McPherson.

One of the five amendments was submitted by Dist. 7 Councilman Howard Shook, who represents half of Buckhead, where many residents have fought the idea of having the streetcar continue up Peachtree from Midtown to Lenox Square. His amendment would force the issue to come back before the council for a vote to accept or reject federal stimulus funds for the streetcar program.

“I think it’s exciting. I think Atlanta has a shot at this,” Dist. 8 Councilwoman Clair Muller said of obtaining federal stimulus dollars for the streetcar line. Muller, who represents about half of Buckhead, chairs the Transportation Committee.

The federal money would come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which appropriated $1.5 billion of discretionary grant funds for capital investments in surface transportation infrastructure.