How do you keep metro Atlanta moving forward when nearly 3 million people are forecast to move here over the next three decades?
That’s the daunting challenge facing regional planners and local governments.
The answer can be found in major update to the transportation portion of the Atlanta Region’s Plan, recently approved by the Atlanta Regional Commission board. The plan details some $173 billion in federal, state, and local funding to help improve transportation across metro Atlanta.
That’s a big chunk of change. But let’s put that in a bit of context before we delve into the details of what new projects are on the horizon.
First, nearly 60% of the funds are targeted to maintain the transportation network we already have – bridge repair, road resurfacing, replacement of aging buses and rail cars, and the like.
Second, the funds won’t “fix” the region’s traffic challenges. As they say, you can’t build your way out of congestion. Every place with a thriving economy wrestles with traffic.
But the plan includes plenty of new projects and programs in the plan designed to provide new transportation options and make it easier and safer to get around town.
Maintenance and safety
Getting from here to there only matters if you make it safely. About $102 billion, or nearly 60% of the total, is earmarked to maintain and upgrade the infrastructure that’s already in place.
Projects include resurfacing roads, repairing bridges, and replacing aging buses and rail cars, as well as new technology that promises to improve safety and traffic flow by connecting vehicles to “smart” traffic signals.
New transit options
Not everyone wants, or is able, to drive. The plan includes $11 billion for new transit options. Projects scheduled in the next decade include:
- High capacity transit in Clayton County, phase 1 of which will connect Jonesboro to the East Point MARTA station.
- Expansion of the City of Atlanta’s streetcar network from Jackson St. to Ponce de Leon Ave., which includes a portion of the Atlanta BeltLine, as well as a section on North Avenue that will be bus rapid transit.
- Bus rapid transit lines in Clayton Co. to replace two conventional MARTA bus routes.
- A bus rapid transit line to connect the growing Georgia State University Stadium area in Summerhill to the MARTA rail network to the north and the Atlanta BeltLine to the south.
- Engineering and other work will take place to prepare for construction of transit on other segments of the Atlanta BeltLine.
- Other key projects are programmed for later years in the plan, including a bus rapid transit line in Gwinnett County connecting the Doraville MARTA station and Sugarloaf Mills, and a bus rapid transit line in Cobb County, connecting Kennesaw State University and the Arts Center MARTA station.
About $10 billion is dedicated to projects and programs that reduce congestion by encouraging alternative ways of getting around the region. This includes:
- Expansion of the region’s bike-ped trails to provide new ways of getting around without driving
- Funding for the region’s Livable Centers Initiative, which helps communities transform into more vibrant places where it’s possible to walk from home to work to the store or restaurant
- Funding for initiatives such as the Georgia Commute Options program that help people change their travel behavior, whether that means carpooling, using transit, traveling at off-peak hours, or teleworking
Tackling traffic bottlenecks
The Regional Transportation Plan provides about $27 billion for key interchange and highway improvements throughout metro Atlanta. Highway projects due to start construction in the next decade include:
- Managed lanes on the top-end Perimeter, I-285 East, and I-285 West
- I-285 North at Ga. 400 in Fulton – reconstruction
- I-285 West at I-20 West interchange in Fulton – reconstruction
- I-285 East and I-20 East interchange in DeKalb – reconstruction
- I-85 North at McGinnis Ferry Road in Gwinnett – new interchange
- I-20 East at SR 20/138 in Rockdale – reconstruction
The Regional Transportation Plan also includes 215 arterial widenings and other projects that will add a total of about 600 lane-miles of capacity to the region’s arterial network by 2050. Projects expected in the next decade include:
- Widening Piedmont Road from Lenox Road to Peachtree Road in City of Atlanta
- Widening SR 20 from I-575 in Cherokee County to Post Road in Forsyth County, in five phases. (Phase 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
- Widening SR 85 from Old National Highway in Fayette Co. to Roberts Drive in Riverdale
- Widening Sugarloaf Parkway in Gwinnett County, from Satellite Boulevard to Peachtree Industrial Boulevard
- Widening U.S. 23 in Henry County from downtown McDonough to SR 138
What’s Next ATL, produced by the Atlanta Regional Commission, is a community resource that explores how metro Atlanta is growing and changing, and how the region is addressing its most pressing challenges.