Pedestrian improvements, massive service facility greenlighted

by Robin Kemp

Clayton County residents will see a new MARTA service facility and police station in Forest Park, as well as pedestrian improvements, the new station at the Justice Center, and ongoing installations of bus shelters, as the transit authority widens its local presence.

This week, MARTA announced $13 million in funding from the Federal Transit Administration for the Operations and Bus Maintenance Facility, which will be built in Forest Park. MARTA says the facility, slated to open in 20206, will cost $116 million to build and will cut “deadhead costs,” which are the costs of running empty buses.

The site, which Chairman Jeff Turner said is in the process of being nailed down, will include garages, a MARTA Police precinct, offices, training and maintenance areas, and multi-fuel point, inspection, and wash stations. It also will use a solar canopy and recycle rainwater and rinse water from the bus wash.

Overhead view of solar canopy at MARTA’s Laredo station. (MARTA Photo)

In a press release, MARTA noted that “(t)he project recently received a categorical exclusion determination under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), because no negative environmental impacts are expected from repurposing a mostly empty industrial property.” However, MARTA did not specify the exact location under consideration, citing ongoing negotiations.

According to the Federal Transit Administration, categorical exclusions cover “…actions which meet the definition contained in 40 CFR 1508.4, and, based on past experience with similar actions, do not involve significant environmental impacts. They are actions which: do not induce significant impacts to planned growth or land use for the area, do not require the relocation of significant numbers of people; do not have a significant impact on any natural, cultural, recreational, historic or other resource; do not involve significant air, noise, or water quality impacts; do not have significant impacts on travel patterns; or do not otherwise, either individually or cumulatively, have any significant environmental impacts.”

The Clayton Crescent has filed an Open Records Request with Clayton County and with MARTA for the FTA Categorical Exclusion and Documented Categorical Exclusion Worksheet, as well as documentation related to site selection for the project.

“The overwhelming majority of Clayton County voters who supported MARTA did so with the understanding that jobs and economic development were part of the equation,” Turner said. “This is an important step–and one we must celebrate–on the path to this project becoming reality and bringing 650 jobs and vibrancy to Forest Park.”

MARTA also announced that Georgia Tech has awarded Clayton County a $100,000 grant to improve walkability.

According to a MARTA press release, the county will use the funds “to build a decision support system for transport project prioritization to promote mobility and equity, and to identify smart technologies to support walkability throughout the community,” adding, “MARTA’s role in this project is still being discussed.”