Emory’s proposal to donate 10 acres of land and $33.9 million for the Clifton Corridor project is a smart step toward neutralizing the criticism the University faced after cutting in line for MARTA funding, which is supported by an increase in Atlanta sales tax that was passed before Emory was annexed into Atlanta. The light rail line would link Atlanta’s Lindbergh station to Decatur’s Avondale station, and Emory’s financial support is more than justified given the project’s potential benefits.
The total contribution, worth about $60 million, would fill a large portion of the project’s existing $100 million funding gap that MARTA has been looking for private partners to address. Emory has a vested interest in ensuring the timely completion of the Clifton Corridor as it would reduce traffic congestion in the area and make the campus more accessible and environmentally friendly.
Congestion is an especially pronounced issue for the University. Emory is one of the most congested areas in Atlanta without access to an interstate or MARTA rail, a problem which will continue to mount without the construction of the Clifton Corridor. The light rail would help remedy this by servicing a projected 23,000 members of the Atlanta community daily, including the University’s faculty, students and staff. The light rail would also provide access to the almost 197,000 jobs in institutions serviced by the corridor, many of which surround Emory, including the DeKalb Medical Center and the Atlanta VA Medical Center. In addition to fortifying the University’s mission of sustainability by avoiding a projected 20 million kg per year of greenhouse gas emissions, the light rail would be a vital way of connecting the Emory community to employment and housing in the city of Atlanta as it passes directly through the University’s campus. Additionally, the corridor would also make it much easier for students to venture off campus to engage with Atlanta, such as through Center for Civic and Community Engagement programs like Volunteer Emory.
One of Emory’s primary reasons for supporting annexation into Atlanta last January was to enable access to the light rail system, which would in turn be funded by the city’s sales tax. Because Emory sought annexation into Atlanta primarily for transit funding, it is only fair that Emory help fund the Clifton Corridor construction where possible.
While Emory may technically be a part of Atlanta as of January this year, it lacks an easy connection to the majority of the city’s population and cultural amenities. By helping subsidize the Clifton Corridor, Emory will finally bridge the gap between the “Emory bubble” and the Atlanta community, while also spurring employment and diminishing traffic.
The Editorial Board is composed of Zach Ball, Jacob Busch, Ryan Fan, Andrew Kliewer, Madeline Lutwyche, Boris Niyonzima, Omar Obregon-Cuebas, Shreya Pabbaraju, Isaiah Sirois, Madison Stephens and Kimia Tabatabaei.