By John Schaffner
The Peachtree Streetcar and the proposed access ramps project at the GA 400/I-85 interchange were two transportation issues discussed at the Buckhead Council of Neighborhood’s (BCON) Aug. 13 meeting. Most of those attending gave a thumbs-down to the streetcar, but embraced the GA 400 access ramps.
The streetcar discussion was prompted by emails BCON chairman Jim King had received voicing opposition to the proposed transit program and wanting to know the organization’s position.
The streetcar proposal came back into the news recently when the Atlanta City Council voted to accept two contributions of $300,000 each from the Midtown Alliance and Central Atlanta Progress to do a study that would be used to seek federal stimulus funds for a streetcar line from downtown to Midtown and from Auburn Avenue to West End.
Buckhead would not be included in the study, but the question was raised by City Council member Anne Fauve as to what purpose the streetcar would serve if it did not go to Buckhead, Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza malls and The Streets of Buckhead, which is under construction as a Rodeo Drive-style shopping and entertainment area.
Dist. 8 City Councilwoman Clair Muller, who chairs the Transportation Committee and also is seeking the post of council president, told the group the vote was simply to accept the money for a study and that there still had been no serious discussion by the City Council of the broader issue — the feasibility and viability of a streetcar line up Peachtree Road.
At-Large Council member Ceasar Mitchell, who also is running for the council president post, questioned whether the streetcar — or trolley — is planned as a tourist attraction rather than a real transit solution.
The overwhelming sentiment among those at the meeting was that Buckhead doesn’t need a streetcar and they don’t want to see city money or taxes spent on such a project.
King gave the group an update on one of Buckhead leadership’s major transportation issues, the construction of new ramps at the GA 400/I-85 interchange that will allow southbound traffic on GA 400 direct entrance onto northbound lanes of I-85 and southbound I-85 traffic direct entrance to northbound lanes of GA 400.
King said that some modifications were presently being made to the access ramp proposals by Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) engineers and those were expected to be completed by early fall. He said he was not totally clear what those modifications were, but recalled earlier neighborhood concerns focused on pylons planned in the stream bed and the height of the vehicle ramps as they passed nearby neighborhoods.
King said he was told that the best-case scenario called for the engineering and environmental study to be hashed out by the end of 2010. Then it would be a matter of funding, he said.
It was mentioned that the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) is getting ready to update its Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP), which lists the transportation priorities and Buckhead interests needed to ensure the ramps project is in that update. City Council member Muller, who represents Atlanta on the ARC, said she would email the ARC about the importance of the project.