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Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal yesterday signed into law a bill that allows the city of Atlanta to pursue a half-cent sales tax to expand the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority's (MARTA) system.Under the law, the city this fall can hold a ballot referendum that allows residents to vote on the sales tax measure, MARTA officials said in a press release. The tax would generate an estimated $2.5 billion over the next 40 years for rail and bus projects within Atlanta city limits. The expansion would likely include a light-rail system in Atlanta's Beltline area, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The new law marks a "great first step forward in delivering the kind of transit improvements that people have been telling us they've wanted to see for a very long time," said MARTA General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Keith Parker.The legislation also leaves room to negotiate with Fulton County for an additional quarter-cent sales tax for further expansion in that jurisdiction.MARTA now will work with city officials to draft a proposed list of projects that must be approved by the Atlanta City Council.