Incredible Silence: New Atlanta Transportation Plans

For years, Atlanta has been espousing its $10 billion to $85 billion transportation overhaul plans: a completed Atlanta BeltLine loop with light rail, miles of Atlanta Streetcar expansion, GDOT highway and major arterial road plans, GA transportation tax approvals, and TSPLOST approvals.

Current Transit Plans

Today, however, all I can hear is an incredible silence.

The silence actually hurts– especially after the I-85 bridge collapse, I-20 buckling, a Midtown sinkhole, a MARTA fire, and other unexpected recent near calamities.

Now is the time to fast-track planned road, and especially transit projects. Further, we need to to plan new projects.

It cannot be any more obvious, Georgia and Atlanta need the already planned projects immediately, and we need new ideas for near-future plans.

The Atlanta metropolitan area is expected to be the 5th largest in the U.S. with 8 million people by 2035.

Excuse me, but that is only 18 years away! As parts of Miami, New York, and other east coast cities go underwater due to climate change, Atlanta needs to become much more ready for hundreds of thousands of new citizens that are sure to come.

GA 400 at I-285 currently under reconstruction
I-75 at I-285 express lane construction

Yes, the GDOT is rebuilding the I-285/GA-400 interchange, the I-285/I-75 interchange, and building quite a few express lanes metro-wide. But, certainly, that is not nearly enough.

Atlanta’s major arterial roads simply must be reworked. Even more so, the existing transit plans need to be ramped-up to a much faster pace and priority. New transit needs to be planned.

As far as new future plans, two political candidates have talked about using Driller Mike to build tunnels under the city to offer highway options– an ambitious plan which GDOT, as well as I, have proposed in the past.

This brings me to the subject of this post: an Atlanta North-South Tunnel.

Underground Potential

We have the technology– and Driller Mike (named after the Atlanta rapper), Atlanta’s 400 foot long earth-coring machine currently building the Bellwood Quarry Water Reservoir connection to Atlanta Waterworks and to the Chattahoochee River.

A hypothetical Atlanta North-South Tunnel would connect GA 400 to I-675 S at I-285 Perimeter south.
Today, tunnels can be attractive.

The plan would be to connect GA-400, in Buckhead, with I-675, south of Atlanta at the Perimeter, via a 10-mile tunnel, creating a complete alternative to the I-75/85 Connector, while protecting Atlanta’s historic neighborhoods and magnificent tree canopy.

This should most definitely include a light-rail transit system in the same tunnel.

A North-South Tunnel perhaps could also have automobile access at Freedom Parkway and I-20, near East Atlanta.

For automobile transportation, such a tunnel would help alleviate traffic from the hellacious northern arc of I-285, I-75 north, I-85 north, the I-75/85 Connector and the southern arc of the Perimeter. Whew!

Tunnel intown
It could include new light transit stations 

But even better, it will allow light rail transit from Lindbergh MARTA Station to Cheshire Bridge, Morningside Park, VA Highland shopping district, The Carter Center / Freedom Park, to the Inman Park/Reynoldstown MARTA Station, and even further south to the East Atlanta shopping/entertainment district, Woodland Hills, Starlight, and Constitution neighborhoods, as well as a station at the I-675 / I-285 interchange, near the South River.

This, combined with a completed Atlanta BeltLine light-rail transit loop and the expanded Atlanta Streetcar lines will make Atlanta into a city with real transportation options.

Intown Atlanta underground light rail entrance? No, this is NYC.
Tunnel intown
Potential Conceptual Section through Tunnel with skylights, light rail, and four lanes of traffic.
Alternative with two smaller tunnels.
Three level tunnel, being built in Istanbul.
Potential beautiful Intown Atlanta Transit Station

The next phase should continue the North-South Tunnel to Buckhead, connecting with the Buckhead Loop.

It could go on to Chastain Park & Amphitheatre, and to SunTrust Park/The Battery at Cumberland where I-75  and I-285 meet. This tunnel is begging for light rail, as well.

A next phase option would be a tunnel connecting GA-141 in Gwinnett County, also known as Peachtree Industrial Blvd, with the North-South Tunnel at Buckhead, thus completing traffic alternatives for the entire Atlanta ITP region. This would take traffic off major arterial roads, as well as, many of the major highways. This last tunnel would not need rail transit as the MARTA heavy rail is already existing nearby.

Tunnel Northside
Future NorthWest and NorthEast Tunnels to Buckhead
Tunnel color
Atlanta: With Many Transportation Options

Perhaps the light-rail portion of the entire Tunnel should be completed first, encouraging Atlantans to move about town without their cars.

Autonomous vehicles will help traffic flow. Additionally, future high speed intercity rail is needed. Already, Atlanta is making major headway on urban trails connecting many walkable districts. And, many roads need to become complete streets.

However, since the metropolitan area is a crossroads for the entire Eastern United States region–from Chicago to Florida, it needs an alternative automobile route, as we have so painfully learned following the destruction of

… just one bridge.


Lets get together and mobilize the State of Georgia, GDOT and the USDOT to build an Atlanta North-South Tunnel. Alternatively (or additionally), we need miles and miles of commuter rail and high speed rail connecting all of our major cities.

A view south from Sandy Springs to Buckhead and Atlanta.

6 thoughts on “Incredible Silence: New Atlanta Transportation Plans

  1. Great post! I live north of Atlanta, and whenever we travel anywhere south, we avoid Atlanta like the plague and take two-lane highways. On Friday, it took our son, who took the interstate, 4 hours to get from our house to the airport because of traffic. Love the idea of a tunnel and also of commuter rail.


  2. I love this idea. This appears to be about 26 miles. How much would it cost and how long would it take to build?


  3. It’s memorable when you’re a creatively advocating realistic near term doable possibilities long ago left connecting OTP to next generation. It’s evident tho to every urban enthusiast now that we’re building funded infrastructure inward connecting Nhbhd’s supported by residents using the city as a cudgel for continuing parochialism is over. Suburbia will have to reimagine itself if we double down buildout successfully it may finally aft 50+yrs reel them in.


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