Twenty years from now, Atlanta, once ridiculed as the “Queen of Sprawl,” may be transformed into a landscape traversed by commuter rail, light rail, buses and pedestrian paths that link neighborhoods and communities.
The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) and its brainchild, the Livable Centers Initiative (LCI), are major players in this effort to refocus the region’s planning efforts.
In 1999, a network of agencies and studies began transit-related transportation planning as a major focus of ARC’s quality growth objectives. ARC began its two-tier LCI funding program with an allocation of $5 million over five years for the initial planning studies.
Tom Weyandt, ARC’s director of comprehensive planning, said these first-round planning grants are competitively awarded to local communities or non-governmental organizations. In the first year, the agency awarded 12 grants. Individual awards averaged about $75,000.
In the second tier, LCI planning grant recipients can compete for implementation grants. So far, implementation grants have totaled close to $40 million, with individual awards as high as $3 million for design and construction.
The city of Atlanta has several LCIs in the works. One region of the city, the Greenbriar Mall area, received an implementation grant of $2.8 million for FY 2003. The mall planning study focused on revitalizing the area surrounding the underutilized 50-year-old mall and transforming it into a dynamic town center.
Odalys Delgado of PBS&J was project manager for the Greenbriar Mall LCI study. A principal recommendation, she said, was to move an existing park-and-ride transfer station from the outskirts of the mall area to the mall itself. This move would improve security at the park-and-ride, but, more importantly, the relocated station could be a “placeholder” for a future Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority rail station while immediately enhancing access to the mall.
— JOHN M. FISH, PBS&J