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Atlanta’s regional planners approve sprawling $173B transportation blueprint

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The Atlanta Regional Commission’s updated plan lays out a roadmap for the next three decades

A picture of atlanta traffic, with cars in the foreground and buildings behind.
Without a well-designed transportation plan, the region’s growing population is doomed to be stuck in traffic forever.
2005 photo by Barry Williams/Getty Images

Regional planning officials voted to adopt a sweeping transportation plan on Wednesday that could determine how metro Atlantans get around for decades to come.

The Atlanta Regional Commission board’s newly approved blueprint outlines nearly $173 billion in projects that would boost mobility and safety across the region, according to an ARC press release.

The plan allocates federal, state, and local funding for the next three decades for roadway upgrades, transit expansion, and alternative transportation enhancements.

Between now and 2050, as ARC planners have tabulated, metro Atlanta’s population is expected to swell by nearly 3 million people—to potentially 8.6 million. Broadening the way we look at transportation, they believe, will be crucial to accommodating the influx.

ARC planners predict that growth could bring with it a two-fold increase in mass transit ridership—from 510,520 regional riders today to more than 1.1 million in 2050—and a more than 21,000-ton drop in tailpipe emissions each year.

Interestingly, though, the plan seems to acknowledge that metro Atlantans will largely still depend on cars to get around over the next few decades.

Nearly 60 percent of the colossal figure—about $102 billion—is earmarked for maintenance and upgrades to existing infrastructure, the release says.

That entails road resurfacing, bridge repairs, and the replacement of aging buses and rail cars, plus upgrades “to improve safety and traffic flow by connecting vehicles to ‘smart’ traffic signals,” ARC has said in the past.

Just $11 billion of the program is reserved specifically for transit expansion, including many high-profile projects outlined by local governments and transportation agencies, such as MARTA.

Those include investments in high-capacity transit in Clayton County, the first phase of which would string a rail line from the East Point MARTA stop to Jonesboro.

It would also grow Atlanta’s struggling streetcar network from Jackson Street to Ponce de Leon Avenue—including part of the Atlanta Beltline—and a section on North Avenue that would feature bus rapid transit.

Also on the docket are plans for new bus rapid transit lines in Atlanta and Gwinnett, Clayton, and Cobb counties, among other areas.

Another $10 billion of the plan would be dedicated to mobility projects, such as bolstering the region’s multi-use trail networks and funding the region’s Livable Centers Initiative.

A significant chunk of the price tag—roughly $27 billion—is slated to be used for major interchange and highway improvements in metro Atlanta, including a handful of reconstruction and update projects planned for the next decade.

A quick rundown:

Those developments would pan out alongside a number of road-widening projects planned for the next 10 years, per the plan:

  • Widening Piedmont Road from Lenox Road to Peachtree Road in Atlanta
  • Widening SR 20 from I-575 in Cherokee County to Post Road in Forsyth County, in five phases
  • Widening SR 85 from Old National Highway in Fayette County 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