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$59 Billion Plan For Region Could Improve Intown ATL

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A big-picture plan to help metro Atlantans move around the region could include a healthy dose of changes in the heart of the city. Continuing through March, the Atlanta Regional Commission is updating what's known as PLAN 2040 — a Regional Transportation Plan meant to ease traffic woes and prepare us for an estimated onslaught of three million more people in the next 25 years. (Is that estimate low?) The projected $59 billion would be spent mostly on maintaining existing infrastructure in the 18-county regional transportation area, but $15 billion is earmarked for more interesting objectives like widening roads, adding bike lanes and sidewalks and funding transit options.

Anticipated PLAN 2040 spending includes more than $15 million to operate the Atlanta Streetcar for its first years of transit infancy, the AJC reports. The streetcar expects to start snaking around its initial 2-mile loop in May.

More than $4 million will go toward "bicycle and pedestrian facilities" spanning Juniper Street, from Ponce De Leon Avenue up to 14th Street. Work should begin on that project in 2015.

In the (hopefully) more immediate future, a connection between the Beltline and Ponce De Leon Avenue is planned as part of ongoing, pedestrian-friendly improvements to that corridor. That cost is pegged at $4.5 million.

In coming years, the plan aims to fix four pain-in-the-arse bottlenecks. Plans call for building four distributor-collector lanes that could help calm the fiasco that is Ga. Highway 400 at Interstate 285. Similar projects are forecasted on I-75, I-20 and I-85 outside the Perimeter.

Funding prospects for more large-scale projects remain a mystery, such as MARTA rail expansion on the Clifton corridor near Emory, Ga. Highway 400 north and I-20 east. Barring a miracle federal contribution or private investor, those initiatives aren't slated to break ground until roughly 2030.

The public is asked to weigh in on the slate of projects through Feb. 21. To give your official two cents, visit this page on the ARC website.

· Latest RTP update [Atlanta Regional Commission]
· The Plan 2040 breakdown [AJC]

[ABOVE: Ponce at Beltline photo: MetroJacksonville.com]