U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today helped kick off construction of a new 2.6-mile streetcar line that will run through the heart of Atlanta's business, tourism, and convention corridor, bringing jobs and new development to the city and reflecting President Obama's blueprint for an America that's built to last. The Secretary was joined at the kick off by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and local officials.
"President Obama called on us to rebuild America by putting people back to work on transportation projects that are built to last, like Atlanta's modern streetcar line," said Secretary LaHood. "All across America, there is work to be done on projects like this. Now is the time to connect people who need work with the work we need to do to improve our nation's transit centers, highways, railways, airports and ports."
Secretary LaHood's visit follows President Obama's State of the Union address, in which he called for using funds saved from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to pay down the debt and fund a six-year transportation bill that would clear the way for nation-building here in the United States.
The Atlanta streetcar will traverse an economically distressed area of downtown, serving as a catalyst for millions of dollars in new residential, official, and retail development. It also reconnects the eastern and western sides of the city that have been divided by two interstate highways for half a century. The streetcar will eventually serve about 7,000 people who live within a quarter-mile of the route, as well as more than five million tourists and convention-goers. Operated by MARTA (Metropolitan Rapid Transit Authority), it will include 12 stops with access to major attractions like the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and the historic Auburn Avenue corridor, which is the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement. The line will also connect with MARTA's heavy rail and bus systems and city bicycle routes.
The streetcar project heeds President Obama's call for a new era for American energy, fueled by homegrown and alternative energy sources, and because the streetcar will be powered by electricity, it will produce zero emissions. Throughout construction of the line, the City of Atlanta, MARTA, and all other stakeholders will use sustainable building materials, recycled materials, and renewable energy sources to make the system as "green" as possible. And overall, locally expanding transit options will help reduce vehicle miles traveled, which lessens our dependence on oil and reduces emissions.
"The Atlanta streetcar project is creating American jobs, using American-made materials," said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff. "It's a great reflection of the President's support for American manufacturing and for giving everyone a fair shot at success by investing in the infrastructure our country needs right now."
Secretary LaHood travelled to Atlanta in October, 2010, to announce $47.6 million for the streetcar project through the Department's second round of TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants. It was the largest of the capital TIGER II grants awarded in 2010. The project is a cooperative effort by the City of Atlanta, the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District (ADID) and MARTA. The City and ADID funded the balance of the project.