A Detailed Look at the Atlanta Traffic Proposal

Published February 1, 2007

The joint Reason Foundation-Georgia Public Policy Foundation report on ways to reduce traffic congestion in Atlanta includes the following recommendations:

Build a network of variably priced toll lanes to be added to the entire freeway system, instead of the currently planned (but only partially funded) set of high-occupancy vehicle (carpool) lanes.

These express toll lanes could be used free of charge by buses and vanpools, providing a congestion-free alternative that would speed up service and significantly upgrade the region’s mass transit system.

They would also guarantee drivers always have the option of lanes moving smoothly at the speed limit, even at rush hour.

This plan would convert the existing carpool lanes into toll lanes and build another 1,132 lane miles to form a seamless network of connecting toll lanes using advanced, nonstop electronic toll collection technology.

The project could be completed in four phases for a total of $9.14 billion (in 2003 dollars). Projected toll revenues suggest toll revenue bonds could be issued to pay for the network without requiring tax dollars.

Build a double-deck tunnel linking the southern terminus of Georgia 400 with I-20 and later with the northern terminus of I-675. The tunnel would provide major relief to the Downtown Connector (I-75/85), the most congested portion of the freeway system.

The idea for the tunnel is based on a similar $2 billion project currently being constructed beneath Versailles, France, funded entirely by tolls.

A tunnel is recommended because the high land values in the downtown area make above-ground expansion too costly. The full set of tunnels could be built at a cost of $4.8 billion (in 2005 dollars).

Toll revenues would support nearly 40 percent of the project. The remaining construction expenses would have to come from surplus revenues from the express toll network or from conventional highway funds.

Construct a new east-west link to relieve Interstate 20, made up of the existing Lakewood freeway, extended to the east by a new toll tunnel and to the west by upgrading portions of existing roadways to freeway status.

On this route, just 28.2 of the 111.2 lane miles would be toll lanes.

Add a separate toll truckway system, permitting heavy trucks to bypass Atlanta’s congestion in exchange for paying a toll. A portion of this system would be tunneled below downtown.

These four projects would cost $25 billion, and commuting times would be significantly shorter than they are today.

Robert W. Poole, Jr.