GA: MARTA says it won’t postpone Five Points construction

June 13, 2024
MARTA said the dispute over how much it owes the expansion program amounts to an accounting issue and does not merit postponing the $230 million renovation of Five Points.

MARTA plans to move forward with the renovation of Five Points station despite a plea from Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens to postpone the work.

In a letter Monday to Dickens, MARTA also disputed the city’s contention that the transit agency owes at least $70 million to its Atlanta expansion fund, as suggested by preliminary audit findings. Instead, MARTA estimated it owes about $9 million.

MARTA said the dispute over how much it owes the expansion program amounts to an accounting issue and does not merit postponing the $230 million renovation of Five Points.

“We have worked through all necessary agreements with our partners at the Federal Transit Administration/USDOT and have signed contractual obligations with multiple contractors,” MARTA CEO Collie Greenwood wrote to the mayor. “Successful execution of any and all public construction projects requires thoughtful planning on the front end, robust public engagement throughout the process and fortitude to advance the project to completion.”

A spokesman for Dickens did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Monday’s letter follows last week’s request by Dickens to postpone the Five Points renovation. MARTA plans to remove a concrete canopy over the station plaza, install a translucent roof, build new street-level bus bays and add green space.

In preparation for construction, MARTA recently announced it plans to reroute bus routes that connect to Five Points on July 6 and to close pedestrian access to the transit hub beginning July 29.

Rail passengers would still be able to transfer trains at Five Points during construction. But the closure would require thousands of people who access the rail system at Five Points to catch a train at another nearby station.

MARTA plans to temporarily reopen access to Five Points during the 2026 World Cup. Construction is expected to be finished in 2028.

The proposed closure sparked a backlash from some business and community leaders. Some want MARTA to postpone the project until after the World Cup and to keep Five Points accessible throughout construction.

On Thursday, Dickens weighed in with another concern. Preliminary audit findings he shared with Greenwood suggest MARTA owes at least $70 million to its Atlanta expansion fund — a program paid for by a half-penny sales tax approved by Atlanta voters in 2016.

City Council members requested the audit last year amid concerns that MARTA had spent far more on enhanced bus service than originally envisioned in its expansion plans. MARTA’s critics say that money can’t be used for building new transit lines. Council members also believe MARTA spent expansion money for enhanced bus service it did not actually provide.

Though the final audit results won’t be ready until late July, Dickens told Greenwood on Thursday that the preliminary findings merited a pause in Five Points construction until the issue could be resolved. The mayor also indicated his administration may have other priorities that should be discussed before the Five Points renovation proceeds. He recently announced plans for four new infill transit stations along existing MARTA lines.

In its response, MARTA said it had worked “hand in hand with your administration to bring this (Five Points) project to life.” It said it had held numerous discussions with Dickens’ staff about the design of the project and the need to close pedestrian access during construction.

“In the eleven months since the City of Atlanta approved the current design, MARTA has proceeded with all due haste to begin construction,” Greenwood wrote.

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