Three Cobb bus transfer stations on list seeking state funding

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Aug. 5—Three Cobb County bus transfer stations were included on a list of projects the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority (ATL) is considering submitting to the state for additional funding.

An ask totaling $127.5 million new stations in Cumberland, Marietta, and south Cobb made the short list of projects the authority is required to submit to the governor's office this year. The "priority investment list" totals more than $367 million in requests across metro Atlanta.

The ATL, created by the General Assembly several years ago to guide transit policy across the region, has assembled 18 such projects on its list, per a presentation to the board this week. Projects could be funded through the state's annual bond package and a fee on ride shares like Uber and Lyft.

The projected cost of each project and the ATL's requests are as follows:

— Cumberland: $50 million project, $48 million request

— Marietta: $65 million project, $45 million request

— South Cobb: $35 million project, $34.5 million request

ATL board member Earl Ehrhart, a former state lawmaker appointed to the authority by Speaker David Ralston, told the MDJ the Cumberland project would likely be the leading item of the three potential stations.

"My understanding is there's kind of an agreement in Cobb that they want to prioritize Cumberland first, because that's where all the (bus rapid transit) is going to come first," Ehrhart said.

Discussion of that project predates the other two, and it's appeared on the ATL's priority list several times in recent years.

But it remains to be seen what the estimated $50 million project to replace the current transfer center along Cumberland Boulevard — which today is little more than a series of bus shelters — will look like, according to Cobb Transportation Director Drew Raessler.

"It really boils down to what amenities are needed for our existing transit system. For example, Cumberland has no parking, it's very tight on space, limited number of bays, (and) limited ability to be multi-modal, in terms of our on demand system," said Raessler.

It's also envisioned as tying into the proposed I-285 "top end" transit project, which proposes to build separated bus and toll lanes connecting the northern arc of the perimeter.

To that end, Raessler will ask Cobb's Board of Commissioners next week to sign off on a $370,000 study to determine the needs of each of the three proposed transfer centers. There's been talk, for example, of relocating the transfer center to the Cumberland Mall property, but the study will examine whether that's still a worthwhile pursuit.

The Marietta and south Cobb center's ultimate design is likewise in to-be-determined status.

Cobb's Department of Transportation has proposed to shutter the existing Marietta transfer center near the intersection of South Marietta Parkway and Aviation Drive. It would relocate to the site once occupied by a Sears department store at 1140 Roswell Road by the Big Chicken, while the existing transfer center would then be retooled as an expanded bus maintenance facility.

The south Cobb center, planned near Wellstar Cobb Hospital, is the only one of the three that wouldn't replace an existing facility.

"Right now, everything has to start and end at a transfer center for drivers and all the infrastructure there," Raessler added. "So what that means is, routes that are more in that south Cobb area ... (drivers) are having to wait on buses coming from Cumberland, or from H.E. Holmes (MARTA station), or from Marietta, or somewhere else. It limits the efficiency and effectiveness of the transit system in that area."

Ehrhart said final approval of the list is expected within the next month, adding, "I'm really advocating for all three ... We want to get everybody's input to make sure we're — what I want is a Cobb on the same page."