By Joel Hall
Recent rainfalls have postponed the completion of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority's (GRTA's) newest Xpress Park-and-Ride lot, in Jonesboro.
Originally set to have express buses rolling at the start of the new year, the lot may not open until late January or early February, according to GRTA officials.
"We're pretty close," said GRTA Communications Director Williams Mecke. "There is a little more concrete that needs to be poured. The weather has held us up a little bit. You can't pour concrete in the rain, you can't pour concrete into a puddle. They are addressing that now. A January-February timeline is realistic."
According to Mecke, the $2.4 million Xpress bus lot will replace GRTA's Xpress station at the Harold R. Banke Justice Center in Jonesboro and will serve as a hub for GRTA's 440 and 441 bus routes, which shuttle passengers to locations in downtown and midtown Atlanta, respectively.
The new Xpress lot, located next to the Mrs. Winners & Arby's near the corner of Smith Street and Tara Boulevard, will have the capacity to park 592 cars, and will offer trips to Atlanta for $3, one-way, and $5, round trip, according to Mecke.
Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox said the construction of the GRTA-owned Xpress lot takes eight acres of Jonesboro property off the city's tax rolls. However, he said that as part of the arrangement, GRTA is building a sidewalk opposite the Xpress lot, along Fayetteville Road.
Maddox believes the sidewalk will improve safety for students at the Eula Ponds Perry Learning Center. "[The Xpress lot] is taking eight acres of commercial property off my tax rolls," he said. "That's why I didn't think it was a good addition to the city.
"But, when they give you lemon, you try to make lemonade," he said. "GRTA is building the sidewalk on the east side of that property on Fayetteville Road ... on the same side of the street [as] the school is. We're going to have it there for those who are smart enough to use the sidewalk."
In October, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners voted, 4-1 ( with Board Chairman Eldrin Bell opposed), to end C-TRAN, the county's local bus service, effective March 31, 2010.
Mecke said that change may slightly alter the dynamics of Xpress bus service in Clayton, which currently connects to C-TRAN. However, he said he expects Xpress buses to able to accommodate any new riders.
"I expect that for folks who had been using C-TRAN to get to the airport to downtown, some of those people will be able to take advantage of the Xpress," Mecke said. "That is not saying we want C-TRAN to go away. We are not a local service. For some folks, it's going to be an option ... for some folks, it's not [going to be]."
Bell could not be reached for comment on Friday.