Atlanta streetcar system will likely be delayed

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ATLANTA — The start of a new Atlanta streetcar system appears to be delayed, and e-mails obtained by a newspaper show it will likely cost significantly more to operate than first thought.

A key question – who will manage day-to-day operations – remains unresolved, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

E-mails obtained by the newspaper show that officials are still trying to decide who will operate and maintain the 2.7-mile system – the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, a third-party vendor, or the city itself.

When federal funding was announced in 2010, the projected annual cost to operate it was around $1.7 million. But estimates released by the city Friday show operating costs likely would be more than double under two of three scenarios being considered.

It would be an estimated $4.56 million for a private contractor to operate it; $4.24 million if MARTA is selected; and $3.18 million if the city is chosen.

Planners have long said that service will begin in April or May. However, the projected startup will likely be pushed back to sometime this summer, said Tom Weyandt, Atlanta’s deputy chief operating officer.

“I am not at all embarrassed to say that we are taking a little longer on getting this thing up and running,” Weyandt said. “Because, at the end of the day, it means we will have done a much better job at evaluating all of our options.”

The system, which loops from Centennial Olympic Park to the King Center, has been dogged by cost overruns and schedule delays since it broke ground last June.

Construction costs initially estimated at $69 million have ballooned to nearly $100 million.

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