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Beltline visionary solicits ideas for a reimagined Interstate 285 Perimeter

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Hypothetically speaking, what would make for a “Bigger Better Loop?”

A map showing bad traffic on the northern Perimeter and on major roads throughout the city.
In terms of typical Atlanta traffic, red does not equal good.
Google Maps

Atlanta’s Interstate 285 Perimeter could be so much more than a car-choked circuit around the city.

So says Atlanta Beltline visionary Ryan Gravel, who on Friday kicked off a contest to brainstorm ideas that would make the Perimeter a “Bigger Better Loop.”

Of course, the winning pitches won’t necessarily be realized, and Gravel told Reporter Newspapers the contest is just for fun.

But wouldn’t it be something if the infamous 64-mile highway loop around the city did more than just carry two million motorists each day?

“Regional growth is likely to crush I-285 in gridlock, creating a challenge for our daily commute and an opportunity for you to think big about its future,” says a blog post by Generator, Gravel’s city planning-focused nonprofit. “Do not burden your ideas with today’s politics, budget, or other constraints.”

After all, the contest marks the 20th anniversary of Gravel’s famed Georgia Tech thesis, which evolved into today’s Beltline project.

Once upon a time, people thought the notion of converting Atlanta’s old railroad corridors into a multi-use trail network surrounded by parks, trees, and transit was “crazy,” as Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry put it in a recent tweet.

“Remember early advocates for the Atlanta Beltline were proposing a wildly ambitious idea for a loop of land they didn’t own, with money they didn’t have, in a political climate that was hostile to change,” the Generator post continued. “Your idea for I-285 could be anything—think BIG and be creative.”

Ironically, the contest also begins the same year I-285 is celebrating its 50th birthday, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to teach the old expressway dog new tricks. (Think: mass transit, perhaps.)

This coming Friday, Generator is hosting an ideas workshop from 2 until 6 p.m.

Submissions are due by December 3, and the winners will be announced and rewarded on December 6.