$47 million in federal funding awarded to start Atlanta streetcar construction

An article in today’s AJC — Feds open up funding for Atlanta streetcar project — reflects a couple of trends worth watching.

The entire Atlanta area, even some of its farflung suburbs, seem to be in the midst of a shift in public opinion about transit needs. High gas prices, congested roads, and other factors are leading many to conclude that we need a shift away from highway construction and road construction generally, to types of infrastructure projects that support alternate modes of transportation.

This money also might be a clear indication of the pull that Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed has with the Obama administration.

A key passage:

Atlanta’s $47 million was the largest gift in the country. The city will be able to start collecting on the grant as soon as work begins.

The project, which has a total price tag of $72 million, will stretch from Centennial Olympic Park to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site on Auburn Avenue.

The winding route will serve as a kind of tourism loop, hitting two of the city’s most visited areas. The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site routinely draws more than 700,000 visitors annually, according to the National Park Service. More than 8.3 million people annually visit Centennial Olympic Park, the Georgia World Congress Center, the Georgia Dome and Philips Arena.

LaHood said the project would create 930 jobs while under construction and 5,600 over its first 20 years of operation.

“This streetcar project will give people the option to leave the car at home and get to where they need to go in downtown Atlanta,” LaHood said in a statement released by the FTA. “In addition to providing safe, clean and affordable transportation options, this project will create jobs, reduce congestion downtown and connect university and hospital resources to public transit stations.”