ann marie quill
Residents Joan Rush, left, and Nancy Lesser attended the Aug. 19 meeting regarding MARTA’s expansion up Ga. 400.

Facing a possible 12-mile expansion of MARTA service north along the Ga. 400 corridor from the North Springs station, residents at an Aug. 19 Sandy Springs City Council meeting continued their push for the extension to run up the west side of the highway.

Northridge area resident Nancy Lesser said she supports MARTA efforts as long as it stays on the west side. She said she’s concerned Dunwoody Springs Elementary, located on the east side near the highway, would be destroyed if MARTA expanded in that location. “Can you imagine a bunch of elementary school kids watching MARTA be built and the destruction to the school?” she asked

Opponents of a east side expansion had packed City Hall wearing red shirts and carrying small signs saying “MARTA Go West.”

Resident David Centofanti said that residents and businesses on the west side would benefit more from MARTA. “The area west of Ga. 400 is primarily multifamily residences, commercial and retail businesses,” he said. “The area east of 400 is primarily single-family homes and schools. The west side of Ga. 400 is better, has a better existing network of sidewalks, roads and facilities to support a transit station.”

But it will be a while before that decision is made. “We haven’t decided which side of Ga. 400 we want to be on,” said Mark Eatman, project manager at MARTA, giving a presentation on the proposal the Aug. 19 meeting.

Eatman said a preliminary engineering and environmental study would be conducted before the agency can determine where the expansion might be located. That study would examine the impact on the rail extending on the west or east side, or even up the center of the highway.

MARTA is examining three options for the project: bus rapid transit, light rail and extending the current heavy rail line. The transit agency is also considering adding stations in Sandy Springs, Roswell and Alpharetta at Northridge Road, Holcomb Bridge Road, Mansell Road, North Point Mall, Old Milton Parkway and Windward Parkway.

City councilman John Paulson thanked MARTA officials for reaching out to the community. In July, MARTA officials took a tour of the area with Northridge residents.

“I appreciate you meeting with our folks and looking in their backyards and seeing what’s going on,” Paulson said. “I think you have seen that the vast majority think an extension is a good idea. The impact on the east and west side obviously has consequences because there’s so many residences that run up the east side.”

Councilman Gabriel Sterling echoed Paulson’s sentiments. “The vast majority of the people in this city would like to see this move from the east side . . . to the west side. You see all those people in red outfits – I know they aren’t all Bulldog fans.”

He also expressed concern about where a new station might be located in Sandy Springs.

“I’m not sold on the concept that Northridge is the right place to put it because Northridge Road essentially dead ends into the Northridge neighborhood.” Sterling said going further north closer to the river might be more beneficial because the city’s future land use plan calls for “live, work, regional” developments along the north Roswell Road corridor.

Preliminary estimates show the bus option is expected to cost about $460 million, compared to $1.8 billion for light rail and $1.6 billion for heavy rail. The heavy rail option is cheaper than light rail because it extends the current line. The 11.9 mile line would extend from the North Springs station. MARTA consultant Claudia Bilotto said the agency is eyeing funds from the Federal Transit Administration, which grants money for projects based on factors such as mobility improvements, cost effectiveness, congestion relief, environmental benefits, land use and economic development.

Ann Marie Quill

Ann Marie Quill is Associate Editor at Reporter Newspapers.