Citizens of north Fulton County awake. The Georgia Department of Transportation just proposed a solution for Atlanta’s regional traffic problem: “Just Pave It,” which is for them the cheapest solution (as they are duly and legally mandated) for the 20-year design/build project period. That’s right, the proposed Ga. 400 Express Lane project by GDOT is their answer for the next 20 years or so. With an estimated $2 billion price tag!

Question: With north Georgia growth running close to double digits, what will they do in 2040? And then again in 2060? You guessed it, more (cheapest solution) paving, adding another four to six lanes every 20 years. Twenty-four lanes by 2060! Wow! L.A., here we come. Is there a better vision available? we hope so, but we don’t see it in the current 400 Express Lane proposal.

As we all know, the gorilla in the room is northern growth, which has to be identified as a vast, complex regional problem, not just an issue for a few small towns on the road into Atlanta. Our north county citizens deserve a bigger vision and better leadership with longer-term thinking. We think north Fulton County is ready for mass transit.

Now, congratulations to Sandy Springs for anticipating/planning a Northridge MARTA station, but where are Roswell, Alpharetta, Cumming and adjacent cities? Where are our regional transportation authorities and planning agencies, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, the Atlanta-Regional Transit Link Authority and the Atlanta Regional Commission? Where is our governor? Is GDOT (the road builder) the right entity to develop our long-term transportation solutions? I think not.

We know that GDOT wants to move more folks faster through Sandy Springs, and make a little money in the meantime via these toll lanes. All to help those commuting folks up-county (who have created this traffic overload). You know, the ones in all those single-occupant cars going to an already congested downtown Atlanta. Result: This 400 Express Lane proposal will just move more folks faster to an already heavily congested I-75/I-85 downtown corridor. We have to ask, are we crazy? Can anyone see the absurdity of this plan? Is anybody looking at the bigger, long-term picture?

So, how might we solve the issue for the long term? Here are some options:

  1. We could go forward with the 400 Express Lane proposal. “Just pave it” and add four to six lanes every 20 years. (It’s the cheapest/fastest solution). And by 2060 we will be 24 lanes wide. This is by far the worst of all solutions. Dumb, dumb, or…
  2. Move into the 21st century with a green solution by adding rail track/stations (instead of pavement) and utilize the existing, world-class mass transit system MARTA (with all its billions of infrastructure in place), giving us increased efficiency and unlimited capacity for future growth at no additional cost. With reduced sound and auto emissions. Smart, smart, or…
  3. As a final solution, if our regional leaders refuse to bring MARTA north, depress the existing 400 lanes for later stacking of second- and third-tier road beds, minimizing the corridor’s footprint, and greatly reducing the impact to all cities along the way.

Note: Only solution number 2 begins to address the question of how to handle the Gorilla in the room, with ever-increasing north Georgia traffic into, through, and out of downtown Atlanta.

MARTA must go north now.

Dick Weber and Tom Lord

Sandy Springs

Editor’s Note: GDOT is working with MARTA to include bus transit routes on Ga. 400’s toll lanes, and a study is underway regarding similar bus transit or light-rail transit along I-285 toll lanes; both bus concepts are proposed as less expensive alternatives to rail-based transit expansion.

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