Tuesday, December 8, 2009

East side zombie road tunnels won't die

Of course I'm frustrated that this underground toll road through my neighborhood won't go away.  It seems like every idea that I think is laughable seems to stick around (Mary Norwood as mayor, underground highways through intown Atlanta, building a new central library...).

Anyway, the DOT has this underground toll road on their public-private partnership list.  My reaction when I first heard about the idea way-back-when was unsurprising - I hated it.  I am going to try and enunciate exactly why this strikes me as a very bad idea:
  • Cost - surely building tunnels for highways is a very expensive enterprise.  Regardless of whether the state itself pays for the construction (such as with a public-private partnership), when it comes to a comparison for value, this can't be very high.  Those same dollars could be spent on things like the BeltLine or MARTA expansion or commuter rail and provide much more value if you include any measure other than "move more cars from Roswell to Hartsfield faster".
  • Impact on neighborhoods - I find it very difficult to believe that this highway wouldn't be destructive for local neighborhoods.  Where will you vent all that exhaust?  What about during construction?  How are the interchanges for access to Downtown going to impact existing street grids?  Surely there will have to be emergency access points that will necessitate surface street interruption.  This doesn't even take into account the affect of areas south of I-20 where the road may become a surface street.  Cuz, y'know, screw East Atlanta and stuff.
I guess those are my first two problems.  If I could be satisfied on those issues, I'd at least be willing to give this tunnel thing a fair hearing - I'm all for  ways to improve transportation in this state.  I'm not entirely opposed to public-private partnerships (although I suspect that the government sides often get the poor end of the deal).  I think toll roads are a great idea, as well.  I'm reasonable.  But this tunnel, it deserves the stupid ideas tag.

The silver lining?  This is far from over:
It's far from a done deal. The chief of transportation planning at the Atlanta Regional Commission, Jane Hayse, said the project had not yet been approved by the ARC board, and it would have to be in order to proceed. Removal from the ARC project list can be the technical act that knocks out a project , as with the Northern Arc.  In addition, a federally mandated study of the project's impacts will investigate its likely effect on the environment and social justice, and can lead to changes in the project or even a recommendation not to build it.
h/t: Rusty Tanton


  1. "For people trying to get from the northern suburbs to downtown or across the metro area..." Less and less of these folks all the time.

    I think our downtown never recovered from our first big dig. If it could all be done like those tunnels under the Alps, maybe. But by the time it could be funded (never) and built, nobody will commute downtown. No 2nd big dig for Atlanta.

    The DOT folk must be mighty bored to bring this stuff up, gets them in the paper though.

  2. The biggest problem with this idea is that it would not significantly shorten driving distances. For people living in Alpharetta, taking 285 to the airport would be less than 5 miles longer than this proposed freeway. And taking 285 to 675 to Florida/S. Georgia would be less than 7 miles longer. For people in other suburbs like Gwinnett, the proposed freeway would actually be longer than using 285 to go around the city.

    If DOT were serious about improving traffic around the city, it would put a couple of toll lanes on 285 for a fraction of the cost. I wish the AJC would call them out on how pointless this proposal is rather than assuming that it would be worthwhile but for the neighborhoods it would destroy.


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