ATLANTA (WAOK/AJC)-MARTA board members voted Monday to proceed with plans totaling $3.5 billion to expand rail mostly in DeKalb County, contingent on whether voters approve a regional sales tax in July.

The board green-lighted a plan to seek $1.6 billion in federal funds to build the Clifton Corridor light rail from the Lindbergh Center station in north Atlanta to the Avondale station east of Decatur and also create an all-day express bus service from south DeKalb to job centers in the metro area.

The board also approved seeking federal money for a heavy-rail extension from the Indian Creek station to the Mall at Stonecrest.

It could easily be at least two more decades before any rail makes its way to Stonecrest. Because federal grants for rail projects normally require a 50 percent match, MARTA would have to come up with more than an estimated $800 million to match any federal money to build the extension.

The board combined the heavy-rail extension with the $225 million express bus project for the purpose of seeking federal funds, bringing the price tag to $1.9 billion. If passed in July, the regional sales tax would pay for the express bus service and some bus stations on I-20 to the Mall at Stonecrest, but it does not include any direct funding for rail in that corridor.

The board’s action Monday would allow MARTA officials to start doing environmental and engineering studies — which could take several years — to enable them to make bids for federal grants to build the rail projects.



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