Residents want rail lines in southeast DeKalb

Several DeKalb County residents have voiced their frustrations over a perceived slight from MARTA. Residents from south and east DeKalb spoke at a board of commissioners meeting on July 9 to urge commissioners to support rail lines in their area.

“We just want inclusion,” said Gina Mangham, a member of the Coalition of South DeKalb Residents. “All we’re asking you to do is consider it. South and southeast DeKalb is really a transportation dessert. We just want the equity to be balanced so the entire county can get what it needs and deserves.”

According to Mangham, the coalition is requesting support by MARTA representatives and DeKalb County Board of Commissioners of a rail line coming from the Clifton Corridor to Stonecrest.

“We feel this will more equitably serve the county and serve more residents and give us a leg up on opportunities for economic development,” Mangham said.

The Coalition of South DeKalb Residents held a press conference June 13 outside MARTA headquarters to advocate for accessible and effective mass transit solutions. MARTA board of directors recently adopted the authority’s fiscal year 2020 Operating and Capital Budget.

The nearly $1.1 billion budget includes $523.9 million in operating funds and $579.7 million for capital programming.

“Our budget reflects MARTA’s priorities and its commitment to its customers, employees and fiscal responsibility,” said MARTA General Manager and CEO Jeffrey Parker in a statement. “Along with bus and railcar acquisitions and facilities improvements, we’re also making systemwide changes to impact our customers’ user experience and making investments in our employees in a very tangible way.”

Currently MARTA officials are working with DeKalb County, DeKalb cities and the Atlanta Regional Commission on the county’s transit master plan. The plan is a 30-year vision for future transit investments in the county.

“We are one county. Not just north, south, east DeKalb. It’s about DeKalb County. We need leaders who will stand up and listen. We need your attention,” said DeKalb County resident Joel Edwards.

Commissioners discussed the opportunity for rail lines in DeKalb during its July 9 meeting and approved a resolution to support transit in south DeKalb County. DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester said she could not fully support the resolution.

The resolution was approved 4-1 with two commissioners abstaining.

In April 2012, the MARTA board of directors approved a rail extension from the Indian Creek station to run parallel along I-285 South, continuing east along I-20 to the Stonecrest Mall area.

“I’m in complete agreement that MARTA needs to do the work it’s supposed to do and see where they are in completing this project,” Jester said. “There have been commitments made to southeast DeKalb regarding transit out that way. I’m in complete agreement that this needs to be addressed. I’m concerned that we not say heavy rail and that is what this [resolution] currently says. I can’t support the resolution as is, but I hope we continue to work together on this.”

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