Stimulus funds: Sigman
bus lot to grow

CONYERS - State transportation officials announced they will use federal stimulus dollars to expand the Xpress bus parking lot at Sigman Road and build a separate entrance ramp onto Interstate 20.

According to the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, or GRTA, bids will be let in August to add 200 parking spaces to the pick-up and drop-off lot, off Sigman Road, and near the Rockdale County Jail.

Also in the plans is using a Georgia Power utility easement to construct a ramp for Xpress commuter buses to enter I-20 more quickly and easily, said GRTA spokesman William Mecke.

"It is something that is definitely needed that is done to relieve congestion," Mecke said. Along with the additional spaces and Interstate entrance ramp, the project calls for additional security cameras, message boards and bus bays.

Mecke said construction is expected to take about a year to complete. Once finished, the Sigman Road park-and-ride lot will resemble GRTA's lot at Panola Road in DeKalb County.

As construction work begins later this year, Xpress bus commuters will experience some disruption in service at the Sigman Road lot. Mecke encouraged riders to go to Xpress lots at the Church in the Now and Panola Road during those times.

Cost to complete the work is estimated at $1.8 million and is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Mecke said GRTA is budgeted to receive $8.5 million for park-and-ride lots and maintenance construction.

The park-and-ride lot in Rockdale County is the first federal stimulus-funded project to be constructed, Mecke said.

The Conyers line, the 420 route, has some of the highest ridership among all of GRTA's Xpress routes. The buses are typically at or near 100 percent ridership per day for all trips to and from Atlanta, Mecke said.

Rockdale County's second Xpress park-and-ride lot, located at the Church of the Now on Iris Drive, is also near capacity. Mecke said GRTA plans to continue the lease agreement with the church to use 400 spaces there for the time being.

However, the agency continues to look at a possible permanent lot somewhere on Salem Road.

"For the long-term, the plan is there to have a lot constructed on Salem Road, which will be driven by what happens with the real estate sector," Mecke said. "With that said, Church in the Now is solid and working for us."

GRTA's Xpress bus service is part of a $52 billion effort to meet transportation needs in the metro Atlanta area in the next 15 years. Called Mobility 2030, the plan was developed by the Atlanta Regional Commission and coordinates efforts across county and municipal lines with state and federal agencies.

Eleven metro Atlanta counties are participating in the express bus program. The counties agreed in 2002 to provide operating funds in exchange for state-funded road improvements.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@