MARTA Responds to Atlanta Mayor, Says Five Points Station Renovation Plan Won’t Stop

ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) – In what became a letter-writing battle on Monday, MARTA’s CEO told Atlanta’s mayor that MARTA has no plans to stop its renovation plan from Five Points Station in downtown Atlanta.

“Successful execution of any public construction project requires thoughtful planning from the outset, strong public engagement throughout the process and the courage to advance the project to completion,” said Collie Greenwood, CEO of MARTA, in a letter sent to Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens on Monday afternoon.

Greenwood’s letter served as a response to a letter written by Dickens on Thursday.

In this letter, Dickens asked MARTA to stop its plan to renovate MARTA’s bus and heavy rail center in downtown Atlanta.

The mayor cited financial concerns related to an audit expected to be released in July on the More MARTA program, the funding source for the renovation.

In a memo attached to the mayor’s letter, Atlanta Chief Financial Officer Mohamed M. Balla said the preliminary audit findings showed errors in MARTA’s calculations for 2022, suggesting MARTA owed $10 million dollars to the More MARTA reserve account.

RELATED: Atlanta Mayor to MARTA: Halt $230M Five Points Expansion Until Audit Is Completed

“Given the importance of the expected lessons learned from this report, I request that MARTA temporarily halt the Five Points MARTA station project until we receive the final report and engage in further discussions together to determine the best possible path forward for MARTA and the City of Atlanta,” Dickens wrote June 6 in a letter to MARTA, acquired by Atlanta News First.

In his response Monday, Greenwood explained to the mayor that the renovation plans had already been approved by the city and the MARTA board and that contracts had already been entered into.

“We have entered into all necessary agreements with our partners at the Federal Transit Administration/USDOT and have signed contractual obligations with several contractors,” Greenwood wrote in the letter.

Greenwood said audit concerns should not be a reason to stop the construction project.

“Without the benefit of seeing the preliminary (audit) findings and relying on CFO Balla’s note that the preliminary audit findings suggest a higher amount, the appropriate correction is simply a function accounting, and not a reason to significantly change the course of the audit. More of MARTA’s critical priorities that we have mutually agreed to advance,” Greenwood wrote.

Greenwood did not call the misallocated money “mistakes” in Balla’s sense, but said MARTA had to transfer about $9 million in MARTA funds to the More MARTA Reserve.

Last week, Greenwood faced persistent questions and criticism from Atlanta City Council members during a Transportation Committee meeting.

“It’s just a big impact for so many people.” And that’s why I continue to fight this,” said council member Jason Dozier.

Dozier criticized the fact that the renovation plan, expected to cost $230 million, calls for closing the station to pedestrian access for about four years.

Dozier also questioned the value of the project, given that it does not focus on increasing ridership.

Greenwood acknowledged that MARTA’s bus and rail ridership has not fully returned since the pandemic.

Council President Doug Shipman raised similar concerns.

“I think a four-year closure is just too high a price to pay,” Shipman said.

On Monday, Shipman told Atlanta News First that he supports stopping the project.

Greenwood addressed concerns about the project’s timeline in his response letter Monday.

“As I relayed during the May 29, 2024 briefing to the Atlanta City Council Transportation Committee, MARTA will reopen limited pedestrian access as soon as safely possible following the deconstruction and demolition phases. We don’t expect the place to be closed until 2028,” Greenwood said.

Greenwood said he’s willing to sit down with the mayor, but if his letter is any indication, the renovation of Five Points is expected to begin July 6, as planned.

According to MARTA, on July 6, eight bus routes will be relocated.

The following routes will go to Georgia State Station:

  • 21 – Memorial walk
  • 42 – Pryor Road
  • 49 – McDonough Boulevard
  • 55 – Jonesboro Road
  • 186 – Rainbow Road/South DeKalb

The following routes will go to King Memorial Station:

  • 26 – Rue Marietta/Boulevard Perry
  • 899 – Former Fourth Ward

The following routes will go to Civic Center Station:

  • 816 – Highlands Avenue North