John Schaffner
editor@reporternewspapers.net

The Atlanta City Council unanimously adopted Dec. 1 the Connect Atlanta long-range plan for dealing with traffic congestion, a plan many Buckhead residents and one member of the council believe needs a great deal more work before it will do much to solve problems in Buckhead.

The Connect Atlanta plan, developed over the past year and a half, calls for converting some major one-way streets in the downtown and Midtown areas back to two-way streets. But many Buckhead residents who attended local meetings to provide input on the areas and projects needing the most attention feel that their comments were ignored and that Buckhead was largely passed over.

Buckhead resident and City Council member Mary Norwood, who is an announced candidate for mayor in next year’s election, said, “There is still a lot of work yet to be done if we are going to deal with the urban congestion problem.”

Because Connect Atlanta now becomes part of the city’s Comprehensive Development Plan, it can be reviewed and changed every quarter (three months) if deemed necessary. So what was approved Dec. 1 could change by spring.

The major victory for Buckhead residents and businesses is a proposal within the plan that would realign the area around the intersection of Piedmont and Roswell roads to distribute the traffic through a series of intersections and eliminate the bottlenecks that now occur at Piedmont and Roswell roads, Piedmont and Habersham roads, Roswell and Habersham roads, and Roswell and Powers Ferry roads.

Buckhead residents and civic leaders also wanted the plan to include new ramps at Ga. 400 and I-85 to allow southbound I-85 traffic to exit directly to Ga. 400 and southbound Ga. 400 traffic to exit directly to northbound I-85. Those ramps are back in the plan but as a state Department of Transportation priority project, not a city of Atlanta project.

A third project requested by residents was a major solution — possibly a direct transit tunnel — to connect the heart of Buckhead to the Galleria area of Cobb County. Instead, the plan proposes a circuitous route through northwest Atlanta, connecting to the northern section of the proposed BeltLine and proceeding to the Lindbergh MARTA station.

Gordon Certain, the president of the North Buckhead Civic Association, proposed the idea of the underground transit tunnel that could run from Piedmont Road to the Galleria in Cobb County.

One element that is still a part of the rail transit proposals in the Connect Atlanta plan but was not universally supported by Buckhead residents is a streetcar to run along the Peachtree Road corridor between downtown and Buckhead.

Other projects on the transit side of the plan include expanding rail service to high-density corridors not already served by MARTA.

The price tag for the various improvements ranges from $3.3 billion to $6 billion, according to Tenee Hawkins of the Atlanta Department of Planning and Community Development.