U.S. Congresswoman Nikema Williams and Special Advisor to the President of the United States, Mitch Landrieu, left, tour the Five Points MARTA Station on Thursday, August 11, 2022. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

Former mayor of New Orleans and current White House infrastructure coordinator Mitch Landrieu expected a bit of heckling to come from the crowd assembled inside the Five Points MARTA station Thursday afternoon. After all, he was talking Saints versus Falcons just blocks from Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the home turf of the New Orleans Saints longtime rival, the Atlanta Falcons.

“Don’t heckle me before I give you the money, wait till after I give you the money,” Landrieu said. 

The money he was speaking of was a $25 million federal grant for major improvements to the station, one of the key arteries and transfer points in the MARTA’s rail system. MARTA provides transportation for thousands of Atlantans every day through 550 rail cars at 38 stations and 550 buses that carry riders down 101 routes. Five Points is the busiest station of the 38, according to Marta.com.  

A rendering of the Five Points station was on display during Thursday’s press conference. (Photo By Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice)

That sum is part of trillions in infrastructure spending that the Biden administration has pushed forward. The Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity program is designed to improve public transportation around the country. The $25 million will be in addition to nearly $14 million the state of Georgia will pitch in for the project.

“I’m here to tell you promises made, promises kept,” Landrieu said of the grant. He spoke of the Biden administration’s record of passing legislation and why Americans need reliable public transportation. “People need to get from here to there in a fast, safe way,” he said.

Rep. Nikema Williams (D-GA), who hosted Landrieu on a ride aboard an eastbound MARTA train to Five Points station, agreed that the importance of an upgraded Five Points station was well overdue.

“It’s time for some upgrades and that’s what we get when we have an administration like the Biden administration,” Williams said. 

U.S. Congresswoman Nikema Williams, Odie Donald, and Special Advisor to the President of the United States, Mitch Landrieu, right, tour the Five Points MARTA Station on Thursday, August 11, 2022. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

Atlanta mayor Andre Dickens Chief of Staff Odie Donald II was also in attendance while Dickens is in Europe on business. Donald, who spoke of “running around this station as a kid,” added that “we are here to celebrate a momentous occasion.”

This marks the first time MARTA will receive combined funding from the federal government, state government and local funds. 

“The more easily Georgians can get from place to place, the more they thrive, and the more our communities and economy thrive,” said Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock in a written statement. “Safely and efficiently getting Georgians where they need to go is a top priority of mine. And that’s why I’m so glad to announce that I helped secure robust federal investments that will help MARTA increase ridership and service at the iconic Five Points Station in the heart of downtown Atlanta. These critical funds will help ensure MARTA’s rail-car doors open up new opportunities for all residents in and around the Atlanta area, and I’m going to keep fighting for strong federal investments that help move Georgians and our state into a brighter future.”

The Five Points station is one of over 160 projects around the country that will receive funding the program. The project, which includes interior and exterior renovations, is expected to begin next month and continue into 2024.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Donnell began his career covering sports and news in Atlanta nearly two decades ago. Since then he has written for Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Southern Cross...