Today, the AJC reported that U.S. DOT has approved $47 million for Atlanta’s proposed $70 million downtown streetcar program. The original story can be found at http://www.ajc.com/news/rep-lewis-dot-will-683159.html, but is included below.
WASHINGTON — In a major coup for the city of Atlanta, the U.S. Department of Transportation has agreed to grant the city $47 million for its proposed $70 million downtown streetcar project, according to U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta.
Lewis’ office said he got confirmation of the award in a conversation with DOT Secretary Ray LaHood on Friday morning. LaHood’s office would not publicly confirm the award.
“In my conversation with Secretary LaHood this morning he reiterated his belief that it was a good and necessary project and one that deserved federal funding,” Lewis said in a statement. “Not only does this project offer citizens and visitors to the downtown area another option for transportation, it will also provide green jobs and support economic development.”
The city’s deputy chief operating officer, Luz Borrero, and a spokesman for the city of Atlanta, Reese McCranie, stressed that the city had not gotten “official” word on the grant from the U.S. DOT.
More may be coming Georgia’s way. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Transportation, Olivia Alair, said the winner announcements would not come until next week. On Friday, LaHood is expected to address a mass transit conference in Macon. The city of Macon and Georgians for Passenger Rail applied for about $1.9 million to help plan a commuter rail line between Atlanta and Macon, said Gordon Kenna, CEO of the passenger rail group.
Macon is in the district of U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall, a Democrat who is in a difficult re-election battle.
A $47 million award for the streetcar project is less than the $56 million Atlanta applied for in August. Making the project finance work will depend on the city council’s approval of an extra $5.6 million or so toward the project, Borrero said. In addition, about $2 million will be shifted to streetcar-related projects. Borrero said that the shifted money was originally budgeted for transportation-related projects within the same corridor, so no area would lose out on project money.
Borrero said the city pared down its request in recent days in talks with federal officials. She said the city council, which approved funds for the original application, had not yet considered the request for additional money.
“We did not know what degree of success this proposed approach would have, but we knew that if we were successful as we have been that we would have an opportunity to demonstrate to the members of the the city council that leveraging a $45 million investment against a smaller increase in our local match would be definitely a worthwhile and absolutely outstanding opportunity,” Borrero said.
City officials have been pursuing the funding for the streetcar line, which will run east-west connecting the King Center with Centennial Olympic Park, for months. Lewis, along with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, met with and had conference calls with DOT Secretary LaHood as recently as a few days ago.
According to city plans, the project would cost more than $70 million, with the city and the Central Atlanta Progress’ Downtown Improvement District putting up local matching funds for it.
Reed’s office has estimated the project would create 5,200 jobs over 20 years and would not only help ease downtown traffic problems but also help the city compete for more tourism and convention business.
The grants are under a DOT program designed to upgrade transportation networks and create jobs quickly.