The eight-mile route will run through the "Innovation Corridor" linking Downtown, the Medical District, Overton Square, the Benjamin Hooks library on Poplar and the University of Memphis. The project would include construction of 28 new transit stations and nine new electric buses equipped with Wi-Fi and electric charging docks, according to Rep. Steve Cohen.
"It does look to the future," MATA CEO Gary Rosenfeld said. "It does bring high frequency, high capacity transit service to the community."
Rosenfeld says the $12 million federal grant Memphis was awarded covers about 25% of the total $70 million total project cost. The rest of the money needed for the project will come from other grants and city funds.
They hope to have construction start in 2021 and be complete by 2024.
Rosenfeld said the electric buses will be "very quiet" and offer the latest amenities on board, including wi-fi, security systems and charging stations for riders' electronics.
John Zeanah, Director of Memphis and Shelby County Planning and Development, said the route will offer more frequent bus service in areas with some of the highest concentrations of population, jobs and students.
Local leaders hope it will spur development opportunities.
Mayor Jim Strickland said the route had been years in the making, and thanked Sens. Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn along with Cohen and Rep. David Kustoff for their help obtaining the grant.
According to a proposal outlined in the city's grant application, the route would begin at the MATA station on North Second Street, down B.B. King and east on Union and Poplar.