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Can Florence, Italy Fit Inside One Atlanta Interchange?

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In the national blogosphere, an image is making the rounds that helps perpetuate the idea that Atlanta is the vehicle-addicted poster child of sprawl. The visual comparison between the ancient city of Florence, Italy and what Streetsblog calls "one nameless interchange in metro Atlanta" is another chink in the ATL armor, especially after we recently dominated two rankings of America's most sprawled-out metropolises. It turns out the interchange isn't so nameless and has actually been the subject of intense debate lately: It's the Cobb Cloverleaf, the neighbor of the future Atlanta Braves stadium, where experts have predicted an extra 28,000 or so vehicles will descend on game days, compounding traffic in an already congested area. Anyhow, about the Florence-Vs.-Cobb Cloverleaf image: It was originally compiled by architect and author Steve Mouzon, who was illustrating what American's lust for moving quickly by vehicle has done to the physical character and property values of cities like Atlanta.

Some have questioned the validity of Mouzon's claims that the images are to scale. The Cobb Cloverleaf shot would appear to be slightly more zoomed-in, unless Florence is comprised of very tiny blocks. Other commenters gripe that only a fraction of Florence is shown. In any case, Mouzon gets his point across.

In his analysis, Mouzon writes: "The Atlanta interstates are each as wide as (two to three) blocks of Florence. The entire Duomo (the cathedral in the center of Florence that arguably began the Renaissance) could fit in one of the inner loops of the interchange, as you can clearly see … The world was irreversibly changed by the people living and working in Florence who gave birth to the Renaissance. The interchange will never change the world… at best, it gets a small fraction of Atlanta workers to their jobs a bit sooner, barring any accidents."

The post, while several years old, inspired another architect-blogger to note the striking differences between medieval European cities and one random Atlanta mega-interchange last week. Lloyd Alter, managing editor of TreeHugger, writes that anyone "could spend days walking the streets of Florence (I have) and find 350,000 residents shopping, eating, selling wonderful leather goods, going to fabulous galleries and palaces and museums. It even has a grade separated elevated pedestrian skywalk." On the other hand, Atlanta's "need for speed" has created "a great big expensive hole the size of Florence that does very little" besides getting a small percentage of metro Atlanta commuters to their destination, Alter writes.

The same methodology would apply to hundreds of interchanges in cities across America (not to mention Spaghetti Junction), but if nothing more, it's food for thought. Random comparisons like this could be infinite in big bad Atlanta. How many Ecuadorian central business districts, for instance, would fit neatly onto The Connector?

· The Whole City of Florence Could Fit Inside an Atlanta Interchange [Streetsblog]
· The Speed Burden (Costs of Sprawl Series) [Original Green]
· Report: Cumberland Area To Be Walloped By Braves Traffic [Curbed Atlanta]