Some big (maybe crazy) ideas will be needed to get Atlanta moving again

Traffic

If Georgia is to absorb a projected 4 million more people over the next 25 years, we’ll need a lot of them to make their homes outside metro Atlanta, as I wrote recently.

But even if less than half the newcomers end up in metro Atlanta — heck, if not another soul relocates here — some changes are in order for a population that has long outpaced its infrastructure. Ambitious leaders need to think not only about ways to grow the rest of the state, but about how we’ll maintain our quality of life around Atlanta.

That starts with transportation. And one big obstacle we face is that decades of growth have consumed much of the open real estate that might have provided right-of-way for road or rail.

So we’ll have to get a little creative. In that spirit, here are a few ideas. Even if none is feasible, maybe they’ll spur the experts to think from a different angle.

First, the proposed MARTA extension up Ga. 400. The transit agency has studied, and heard residents’ opinions about, which side of the highway new tracks ought to go. Trouble is, the state DOT plans to build tolled express lanes up the same stretch of highway. So there would have to be new construction on both sides, to residents’ chagrin.

But that pair of plans is also an opportunity. MARTA is still considering bus-rapid transit on 400. If the agency ran BRT on GDOT’s future toll lanes, it not only would avoid the problem of building new infrastructure on both sides of 400. It might then put its own construction funds toward bus-only lanes from the highway to the various city centers being built or enhanced in the 400 corridor.

That would allow commuters to leave the North Springs rail station on an express bus that takes them well off the highway and closer to home. Surely that’s a greater value proposition than asking them to fight through the same traffic to a new train station that they now face getting to 400.

Next, traveling east-west through the northern suburbs can be a real bear. The development from I-75 across east Cobb, north Fulton and northwest Gwinnett to I-85 is so thick, any new infrastructure appears impossible or hopelessly expensive.

But there’s a corridor that runs from Marietta across to Sandy Springs, Norcross, and even Lawrenceville, and it’s mostly clear-cut — a veritable miracle in that area. It’s a corridor for power transmission lines.

Now, before you call me crazy for wanting to put train tracks or BRT lanes (no general-purpose road wide enough to be worthwhile would fit) beneath 500-kilovolt power lines, do me a favor. The next time you’re sitting in traffic on a busy road, look up. In many places, you’ll see lines carrying 230 kilovolts. That’s enough power to fry anyone, yet we drive under them all the time.

Finally, the downtown connector is a mess. Parallel routes for 75 and 85 were killed long ago, and the only alternative discussed is a tunnel from 400, beneath Morningside and other neighborhoods, to I-675.

Instead, how about going just west of downtown and building an elevated 75 bypass above U.S. 41? It’s about 11 miles from where 41 crosses 75, just before the north end of the connector, down to Cleveland Avenue, just past the south 75/85 split. That’s less than half the distance of the mostly elevated toll lanes being built in the 75/575 corridor. And it mostly spans commercial and retail districts, not residential.

Again, laugh at these ideas if you want. But we’re far enough behind the curve that it’ll take some ingenuity to get us really moving again.

Reader Comments 0

17 comments
Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Interesting to see leftists, environmentalists, and other anti-growthers supporting the Northern Arc.

They opposed it when it mattered.

lvg
lvg

How's that Northern Arc coming along?

bu2
bu2

@RoadScholar @RafeHollister @lvg Kyle, you are wrong about the ROW.  Other cities are doing things and Atlanta is one of the least densely populated major metros.  Only Charlotte and Birmingham of the top 70 or so are less dense.  Atlanta just has a "Can't do" attitude.  Its too hard.  Its too expensive.  Unless Atlanta can overcome that, the metro is doomed to stagnation.

bu2
bu2

@RoadScholar @RafeHollister @lvg We need some political leaders coming up with ideas like yours instead of accepting these "make life miserable for people in cars so they will take mass transit" philosophies than the Atlanta area planners share.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@bu2 @RoadScholar @RafeHollister @lvg Because people do not want it "next " to their home, even if it is miles away! Atlanta has gone from NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) to BANANA (Building Anything New Anywhere Near Anything). And our elected officials, who are mainly Repubs, do not understand planning...long term planning. They prefer to react....too late.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

"But that pair of plans is also an opportunity. MARTA is still considering bus-rapid transit on 400." Add to that an E-W route north of I 285 and a viaduct down US 41.


Obviously you have never done public involvement esp for transportation.


Numerous public outreach by MARTA and GDOT has been done on the SR400 corridor and it is the overwhelming opinion of the local residents that they want heavy rail. They have said repeatedly they would not ride a bus.  Check with MARTA.


BRT is an option for the reconstruction of I 285 (REVIVE I 285) as is light rail. The study and EIS has ground to a halt. Why? Check it out.


As for a viaduct down US41, I guess a road going thru "those people" 's neighborhoods are just fine if it does not go through yours. Again multiple Public meetings have been held on that corridor w/o any action, let alone considering an Interstate in that path.


Don't get me wrong. Capacity improvements are needed in these corridors esp transit. But wear a bullet proof vest (sarc) if you plan to propose these alternatives to the locals along these routes.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@RoadScholar "Numerous public outreach by MARTA and GDOT has been done on the SR400 corridor and it is the overwhelming opinion of the local residents that they want heavy rail. They have said repeatedly they would not ride a bus.  Check with MARTA."

They weren't offered the option I'm describing.They might well answer differently if asked, "Would you rather drive to Ga. 400 to get on a train, or get on a bus with a dedicated lane to keep it from getting stuck in traffic, which takes you to that same train further down the line?"

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@Kyle_Wingfield @RoadScholar Just try getting by the section just south of I 75. And you're right about all the public housing and Vine City being removed.


Also where does it begin /end? I75 hits US 41 in at least 3 spots.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@Kyle_Wingfield @RoadScholar But the Alpharetta, Roswell, Milton people do not like the social stigma of a bus, nor do they want to transfer at the N Springs Station. Just stating what I have heard and read.


You left out they can spend their $$$ on the managed lane also. $2.50 does not get you much these days on a managed lane 10 M long. Oh and try to add a managed lane south of I 285 on SR 400. Just where do you end it? Buckhead? Under the AFC bldg?

bu2
bu2

@RoadScholar @Kyle_Wingfield Atlanta's biggest mistake was combining 85 and 75.  They should run 85 north of Atlantic Station as a toll road, through under and un-developed mostly industrial areas on the west side down to Ft. McPherson.  Use Ft. McPherson ROW to 166 and then use 166 out to 285 where it will join the existing 85.

bu2
bu2

@RoadScholar @Kyle_Wingfield That's the argument for rail out to Alpharetta.  Where would you put toll lanes on 400 inside 285?  You can do it along 75, 85 and 20.   You already have some.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@RoadScholar "I guess a road going thru "those people" 's neighborhoods are just fine if it does not go through yours."

I've driven the entire length of the route I've described. There is very, very little residential in the area. It is almost exclusively commercial and retail. And I think it's qualitatively different to talk about an elevated highway vs. a highway that divides the area a la the downtown connector; I wouldn't be at all in favor of the latter.