A tunnel under East Atlanta? Srsly?

So a while back, some jerk politician decided that Atlanta would be a better city if he knocked down some of the oldest intown neighborhoods to build a new highway so that Northern Suburb residents would have an easier time getting to the airport. No, I’m really not kidding. That idea and the moron behind it got a great deal of laughter from some of us on the neighborhood message board, because really, who could take this seriously?

Well. According to Wednesday’s AJC, The toll road tunnel proposal is for real.

“A controversial concept to link Ga. 400 to I-675 by digging under east Atlanta has for a couple of years found its way onto some policymakers’ wish lists. But this month it found itself someplace better: Among the state Department of Transportation’s top toll projects pitched to private investors and road-building companies.
The tunnel is the one project that absolutely, head and shoulders above every other P3, moves the needle the most on congestion mitigation and mobility,” said David Doss, who chairs the state Transportation Board’s committee on such projects.”

So, like, whoa. Pardon me while I go get a drink.
Given that we seriously need to think about moving away from a fossil-fuel, single occupancy car lifestyle, I found the above statement to be not only incredibly shortsighted, but downright idiotic. Then, I saw even more on this topic posted to our message board:

Last year the legislature passed SB 200 that authorized a new Planning Director, appointed by the Governor, to present a Statewide Strategic Transportation Plan. The draft of this 2010-2030 plan gives congestion issues in Metro Atlanta high priority. The draft plan is available at http://www.it3.ga.gov .

and more:
“First Report From The State’s New Transportation Planning Director”
By Dick Pettys
InsiderAdvantage Georgia
(1/4/10) You may recall that under the transportation governance makeover bill approved by the Legislature in 2009, the new director of transportation planning is required to deliver a draft of the Statewide Strategic Transportation Plan to the Legislature for comments and suggestions.

Todd Long, the director, did so last week, issuing what appears to be a comprehensive report on where we’ve been in transportation in Georgia, where we’re going right now under the existing revenue stream and where we could be going with additional resources.

Some tidbits from the report:

* From the 1960s through most of the 1980s, Georgia consistently invested more of its GDP in transportation infrastructure than the rest of the United States. But that started changing in the late 1980s and early 1990s, just as population and GDP began surging. As the report puts it, “Georgia’s investment posture began to resemble a company pursuing a ‘harvest’ strategy (i.e., relying on past investment success rather than actively preparing for the future.)’ And, the report says, since capacity did not expand to keep up with growth from 1985 to 2005, traffic congestion began overwhelming the network. By the late 1990s, Atlanta’s metro area was developing a reputation for congestion and air quality issues.

* While Georgia was ‘harvesting,’ its competitor states were aggressively building infrastructure. By 2006, state and local governments in Georgia combined invested only $380 per person (excluding bonds) in transportation. That was about half the national average and far less than Texas ($730 per person), Florida ($730 per person), Virginia ($630 per person) and North Carolina ($500). In fact, across the entire country, only Tennessee invests fewer dollars per capita ($354) than Georgia.

For those not in the know, I live in a metropolis of roughly 5 million people. If you add in the outer ring of suburbs, I suspect you’d easily double that, altho I can’t seem to find those numbers anywhere. There are 13 counties, but out of those, only 4 have public transit, each using their own independent system. Rail is confined to a pair of crossed lines with just under 40 stops total, the most popular being the airport. The main problems arise from these 4 separate systems being very poorly integrated with each other, making getting anywhere across county lines a logistical nightmare, and from a distinct unwillingness of much of the population to actually use public transportation.

In my opinion, the easiest way to get people from the northern suburbs to the airport would be via the existing rail, expanded. In fact, one of the easiest ways to ease the severe air pollution and traffic congestion overall would be to expand and connect the current mass transit systems. Yet, those options aren’t even mentioned in the DOT proposal, which instead keeps advocating more and larger highways.

Atlanta, we can’t pave our way out of this. All the bigger roads have done is encourage more sprawl, which makes it that much harder to keep us connected with viable public transit. The Beltline project is a step in the right direction for city dwellers, who have increasingly been clamoring for more car-free options, and it’s time for that change in thinking to catch on outside the city limits.

If these politicians and agency heads were really interested in the growth of Atlanta vs lining their pockets at the expense of our city’s diversity and history, they’d be finding ways to work together and raise funding for city-healthy growth.
Or, maybe for funding for projects like this one, which seeks to do just that – unify the systems already in place.

(clicky for larger picture)

So come on Atlanta, put down that big gulp and release that white knuckle grip on the steering wheel. Wouldn’t you rather read a book or knit a scarf during your commute, arriving home relaxed and ready to spend time with those you love? This is a change we can make happen!


6 thoughts on “A tunnel under East Atlanta? Srsly?

  1. I’m still waiting on the commuter rail system to start getting laid. It’s not like they need to do anything but re-activate a bunch of stations and buy rolling stock. Hardly any land to be acuired and hardly any infrastructure to be built from the start. But no, we’re still dicking around talking about what economic district gets built where around the tracks and the size and scope of the parks and all the other stuff.

    The point of transportation is moving people. So far they’ve not moved any people with the rail plans. Which has me quite cross.

  2. I’m not well traveled and not very educated on civic planning, but I do know that my trip to Portland and my experience with their public transportation system really made me disgusted with how things are done here in Atlanta.

  3. Marta runs in a tunnel under the center of Atlanta. The Nancy Creek overflow runs in a very long tunnel from just south of 400 to Douglas county.

    The really angry people are the ones who live south of you where they tunnel will exit and split existing neighborhoods.

    • There’s more to this project than the recent quotes we’ve seen in the news. It’s quite telling that the new mayor is saying one thing while the DOT and the regional planning authority are saying another. It will be yet another Atlanta vs Georgia battle.

      The City of Atlanta and DeKalb County already get the short end of the stick on help for MARTA and Grady from the suburbs & the state. Now this?

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