Atlanta — Innovative highway solutions and additional investment in public transportation are highlights of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s (ARC) update to its PLAN 2040 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). Many of the improvements around the region will be implemented within the next five years.
The RTP, a $59 billion plan for transportation spending in an 18-county region through the year 2040, was approved by the ARC board and must now be approved by the board of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) before going to the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration for federal approval.
“ARC is excited that this plan update will help relieve congestion at some of the region’s worst bottlenecks, while also providing more options to residents by supporting transit and other reliable alternative commuting methods.” said Kerry Armstrong, ARC board chairman. “These projects will improve the quality of life for our region’s citizens, and will do so sooner rather than later.”
More than 70 percent of the plan’s $59 billion is needed to maintain the region’s existing network, leaving only about $18 billion for expansion between now and 2040. Considering that ARC expects the region to add almost three million more residents during that time, there isn’t enough funding to keep up with increasing congestion.
The update further increases the plan’s existing focus on relieving the region’s worst bottlenecks and on providing residents with more options for getting around. It also takes into account some shifts in priorities by local jurisdictions and by the federal government following the passage of a new federal funding bill called Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21).
“ARC has closely worked with the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and with local communities to identify high-value, lower-cost projects that support economic competitiveness and congestion relief goals,” said Doug Hooker, ARC executive director. “Two great examples are the diverging diamond interchanges that will improve access to the world’s busiest airport and address significant congestion bottlenecks.”
These diverging diamond interchanges, similar to the one at I-285 and Ashford-Dunwoody Road near Perimeter Mall, will improve access to and from the interstate system at a fraction of the cost of completely rebuilding an interchange. One will be located at I-285 and Camp Creek Parkway near the airport, the other at I-75 and Windy Hill Road near Cumberland Mall.
Also as part of the update, ARC was able to fund new projects under the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program (CMAQ), which requires that projects meet certain congestion relief and air quality standards. These projects, selected by ARC and local jurisdictions, will all be underway within the next three years. A few of them include:
· $15.2 million for operations support of the Atlanta Streetcar scheduled to open in May.
· $11.4 million to reduce MARTA rail wait times from 15 minutes to 10 minutes during morning and afternoon rush hours.
· $24 million in signal synchronizations and traffic management systems along key freight and commuting corridors around the region
· $9.6 million toward diverging diamond interchanges at I-75 and Windy Hill Road in Cobb County and at I-285 and Camp Creek Parkway in Fulton County.
· $3.6 million to replace diesel MARTA buses with natural gas buses in south Fulton County.
· $44 million to extend the HOT lanes on I-85 from Old Peachtree Road to Hamilton Mill Road.
Aside from the CMAQ projects, the RTP includes other critical projects that will get underway between now and 2017. These include:
· $65.5 million for an underpass and realignment of Highway 92 in Douglasville
· $3 million for an underpass at Old Covington Highway and Ga. 138
· $557.8 million for express toll lanes along I-75 from Ga. 138 to two miles south of Ga. 155
· $935 million for express toll lanes along I-75 from Akers Mill Road to Hickory Grove Road and along I-575 from I-75 to Sixes Road
· $112 million for extension of existing express toll lanes along I-85 from Old Peachtree Road to Hamilton Mill Road
· $8.7 million for pedestrian/bicycle facilities and upgrades along Juniper Street and Ponce De Leon Avenue in the City of Atlanta
· $3.2 million for pedestrian/bicycle facilities along Franklin Road in Cobb County
· $5.4 million for medians and pedestrian/bicycle improvements along Buford Highway and in Suwanee in Gwinnett County
· $1.6 million to improve intersections and safety along Ga. 6 in Cobb and Douglas counties, which carries truck traffic to and from the largest freight rail facility in the Southeast
These are just a few highlights from a long list of projects in the RTP to be constructed between now and 2040. To see a complete list, visit www.atlantaregional.com/rtpupdate.