Multi-Modal Terminal: An old idea comes around again

[private]The idea of building a multi-modal passenger terminal in downtown Atlanta has been picked up and then set aside several times over the past two decades.

But it’s an idea that somehow keeps coming back to life, no matter how far-fetched or unrealistic it might seem.

The latest attempt to breathe life into this old corpse comes from state Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

“For us to be an international city, we really do need a Union Station-style facility,” Beach said, referring to the grand passenger terminal near Five Points that was demolished in the 1970s. “I think the time is now, if we’re really going to think about regional transit.”

Beach called a meeting of his committee Thursday morning, where members got a briefing on the last time there was a serious look at the proposal for a facility that would interconnect MARTA trains and buses, freight and passenger rail lines, and surface modes of transportation like taxis and rideshare services.

That was in 2013, when the state Department of Transportation used a $12 million federal grant to pay for a study by the Cooper Carry architectural firm. That study determined the cost of building a multi-modal facility in the railroad gulch downtown would be about $1.5 billion.

Beach is all on board for building that terminal, which he says is more feasible now that “the attitude towards transit” has picked up more support from political figures like House Speaker David Ralston.

But some members of the Transportation Committee expressed skepticism about it.

Sen. David Lucas (D-Macon) noted that obtaining that level of government funding for a facility that would primarily benefit Metro Atlanta might be “a difficult sell out in the hinterlands.”

Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) said the state’s economy is increasingly dependent on the use of rail lines for transporting freight. Trying to carve out room for passenger lines as well “could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

Working out a way to efficiently use the rail corridors will require some complicated negotiations with the CSX and Norfolk Southern, which now hold the rights to the rail lines, it was pointed out.

Real estate market realities may also work against the original idea of building the multi-modal facility in the railroad gulch adjacent to MARTA’s Five Points station in downtown Atlanta: the Atlanta Hawks’ ownership is now interested in buying that property and developing it.

“If the railroad is interested in selling (the gulch property), we’d better hurry,” said Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega).

Beach was undeterred and said his committee “will continue to look at this” in the weeks ahead.

© 2017  by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Brandon Beach , multi-modal passenger terminal