Cobb BOC approves regional agreement for the study of public transit options on I-285.

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In a 5-0 vote, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners voted to approve an agreement with several other stakeholders in regional transit planning to fund a planning and conceptual engineering study that will examine public transit options on I-285. The segment of 1-285 covered by the study would be the northern arc running from Indian Creek MARTA station on the east, to the Hamilton Holmes station on the west.

The funds for the study will come from American Rescue Plan Act money administered by the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority with a portion allocated for use by Cobb County.

The use of the funds creates no further obligation on the part of the county, and any projects initiated as the result of the study would have to return to the BOC for a vote.

The agenda packet for the meeting summarized the request as follows.

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To approve a Memorandum of Understanding with the Atlanta-Region Transit Link
Authority, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), Gwinnett County,
the Georgia Department of Transportation, and the Atlanta Regional Commission for a
planning and conceptual engineering study for potential transit fixed guideway and bus
rapid transit stations within I-285 Top End Express Lanes, between Indian Creek
MARTA Rail Station and H.E. Holmes MARTA Rail Station.

Raessler described the funding for the project as follows.

“On our final item, I did want to add a little bit of clarification,” he said.

“In 2018, the state legislature established the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority (the ATL), to coordinate planning across the metro region,” he said. “With that, the state also authorized the ATL to be the designated recipient for state and federal funds.”

“Specifically for transit funds that route through the ATL to Cobb County, as ATL is the direct recipient,” said Raessler.

“ARPA, which was passed earlier this year dedicated $10, 937,755 to Cobb County based on a transit formula that they use for all the operators throughout the country based on a national formula. This item sets aside $546,888 for planning and conceptual engineering of the I-285 Express Lane Transit Project,” he said.

“You’ll notice in the agenda item, there is no funding statement because these are not funds that the county has received to this point, as they are ARPA funds coming from the federal government,” said Raessler. “They route through the ATL,” he said. “The ATL would reserve that funding for this project, as well as funding from other regional partners including MARTA, Gwinnett County and doing so in coordination with GDOT and the ARC.”

He then recommended that the Board of Commissioners approve the Memorandum of Understanding.

BOC Chairwoman Lisa Cupid said, “I want to underscore again, as I shared yesterday, this is a significant opportunity for our region.”

“As Drew stated, for years now we’ve had partners across the region come together to see what they can do to address their interest in transit,” Cupid said. “And today you see a partnership that can unfold between not only our county and the ATL, but also with Gwinnett County, and the Georgia Department of Transportation, which saw the opportunity and allow the expansion of this scope. Also MARTA and the ARC.”

“So I just so grateful to see this on our agenda, and I humbly ask for your support again for this matter,” said Cupid.

The motion passed 5-0.

Background

The agenda packet gave the following detailed background of the Memorandum of Understanding:

The Georgia Department of Transportation’s (GDOT) Major Mobility Investment Program includes the
planned construction of express lanes along the northern portion of Interstate 285 (I-285) from its intersection
with Interstate 20 (I-20) on the west side to I-20 on the east side, collectively referred to as the I-285 Top End
Express Lanes project.

The intention is that the project will include express lanes but has been designed to not
preclude a transit component; however, additional planning and conceptual engineering is needed for potential
transit components, including station designs, transit vehicle movements, access points, and entry/exit ramps.

Beginning in 2018, various regional entities collaborated to fund an I-285 Top End Rapid Transit Feasibility
Study to examine high capacity transit along I-285, from the Cumberland/Atlanta Road area to the
Northlake/LaVista Road area. Coordination has occurred with regional agency partners, including the Georgia
Department of Transportation (GDOT), Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), Cobb
County, Fulton County, DeKalb County and the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC).


Input received from public meetings held by the Department, subsequent Board of Commissioner briefings,
and technical analysis used for the CobbForward Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) 2050 update
identified a need to extend the project limits in the I-285 Top End Rapid Transit Feasibility Study.

Project limits were extended southward to I-20 to connect with the H.E. Holmes MARTA Rail Station, which will
provide enhanced regional transit connectivity.

The potential transit project was added to the CTP long-range
recommendations to support continued regional coordination.


The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which was signed into law on March 11, 2021, includes $30.5 billion
in federal funding to support the nation’s public transportation systems as they continue to respond to the
COVID-19 pandemic.

Funds were distributed nationwide based in part on the national formula, along with
other factors.

The public transportation funds under the ARPA for the Atlanta metropolitan area were received
for sub-allocation to regional transit operators by the designated recipient, the Atlanta-Region Transit Link
Authority (ATL), in consultation with the ARC, local governments, and regional transit operators.

Following further consultation with Cobb County and other regional partners, it was agreed that a portion of
regional ARPA funding received would be designated for the I-285 Top End Express Lanes transit component;
therefore, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between all parties is required.


The MOU details the financial contribution, collaboration specifics, and roles of each party related to the I-285
Top End Express Lanes transit component planning and conceptual engineering study project, and expenditure
of associated funds. The total cost of the study is estimated not to exceed $16,200,000.00. Each party’s
financial contribution was calculated based on 5 percent of the eligible ARPA funding sub-allocation to be
made to each agency by the ATL. Cobb County’s share for this project will be a total amount of $546,888.00,
based on its original ARPA funding sub-allocation of $10,937,755.00.


The MOU with the ATL, MARTA, Gwinnett County, GDOT, and the ARC has been reviewed by the County
Attorney’s Office.


IMPACT STATEMENT


Per terms of the MOU, if there are any contributed funds remaining upon completion of the I-285 Top End
Express transit component project, the ATL shall return funds to each party in proportion to each party’s
original contribution.


MARTA, as the designated Project Manager, shall ensure that the cost of the project does not exceed the
contribution of each party, as specifically set forth in the MOU, without prior written approval from each party
agreeing to increase the amount of their contribution. If an increase to Cobb County’s contribution is identified,
an agenda item will be presented to the Board for approval of additional funding required.

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