Momentum continues to build for a MARTA project that would introduce bus rapid transit service high into the northern reaches of Fulton County, echoing similar efforts in Atlanta and the metro’s southside.

Officials with the North Fulton Community Improvement District, founded 20 years ago as an economic development tool, have announced a partnership with MARTA to conduct studies as a means of expanding BRT into Alpharetta and Roswell. Another goal is to determine exactly where stations should be placed, and how they would function, along Ga. Highway 400.

A project rep tells Urbanize Atlanta the cost estimate for building the north Fulton BRT line is $360 million. The NFCID and MARTA would equally spilt the cost of the study that would precede construction. [CLARIFICATION: 5:41 p.m., March 1: A NFCID reps sends the following clarification to the earlier report: "The $360 million number is for the buildout of the Ga. Highway 400 BRT system. The study cost is $220,000, and that is what the NFCID and MARTA are splitting. The full construction funding is currently being identified by MARTA."]

The Holcomb Bridge Road stop's platforms within express lanes, according to renderings supplied to Urbanize by MARTA officials two years ago. Courtesy of MARTA/2021

The funding was approved in December, and an intergovernmental agreement was inked the following month, according to NFCID officials. Engineering firm Kimley-Horn will lead the station area planning study, for which a kickoff meeting was held in February.  

Collie Greenwood, MARTA general manager and CEO, said the agency “is excited to advance this high-capacity express lane transit project along one of our region’s busiest travel corridors” in a prepared statement.  

Quick background: MARTA officials determined BRT was the most viable solution for extending transit services northward, as opposed to new rail lines, following an environmental impact analysis in 2019. Plans call for installing dedicated lanes for BRT vehicles and several stations from MARTA’s North Springs transit hub up to Windward Parkway in Alpharetta, a distance of about 13 miles.

Summary of Fulton's transit funding history.Courtesy of MARTA/2021

With the MARTA partnership officially in place, the North Fulton boosters hope to soon create a plan that details station design concepts, options for transit-oriented development near stations, and ideas for first and last-mile connectivity between stations, people’s homes, and popular destinations.

The BRT expansion, if approved, would be installed during the Georgia Department of Transportation’s new express lane construction on the highway.

Potential look of the Holcomb Bridge Road stop. Courtesy of MARTA/2021

Brandon Beach, NFCID’s executive director and vocal proponent of last year’s Buckhead City movement, said his team will spend the next six months engaging with commercial property owners and city staff from all three municipalities in the CID boundary (Alpharetta, Milton, and Roswell). He expects the expanded transit option to be “transformational” for the full Ga. Highway 400 corridor in northern Fulton County.

“This study,” said Beach in Tuesday’s announcement, “will serve as a catalyst for further enhancing the quality of life afforded to those who work, live, and play in North Fulton.”

MARTA officials have proposed building four stations along the BRT route in Roswell and Alpharetta. Those would be at Holcomb Bridge Road, near North Point Mall (and concert mecca Ameris Bank Amphitheatre), at Old Milton Parkway, and at Windward Parkway.

At last check, GDOT hoped to open its Ga. Highway 400 express lanes sometime in 2027.

Where bus stations would be built, beginning at MARTA's North Springs transit hub, as MARTA planners foresaw it in 2021. Courtesy of MARTA/2021

Elsewhere in the metro, MARTA is moving forward with BRT transportation (in most cases instead of earlier plans for rail) along the Clifton Corridor near Emory University, on Campbellton Road in Southwest Atlanta, and in Clayton County.

But the first line predicted to go under construction is a five-mile, 14-stop BRT loop linking downtown to Summerhill and other neighborhoods. MARTA now expects that project to break ground in May, with service beginning in 2025.


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Roswell news, discussion (Urbanize Atlanta)