Future of regional transportation unveiled today

By Greg Gelpi

Metro Atlanta probably won't have flying cars or space age teleporters by 2030, but a local commission has plans to ease traffic and the effects of traffic.

The Atlanta Regional Commission developed a $50 billion plan focused on reducing traffic, creating safer roadways and improving conditions for those who live near busy interstates.

Mobility 2030, the commission's plan, is intended to resolve problems, both short and long term, for the metro Atlanta area.

"We didn't have traffic jams back in '68," Bob Reynolds said.

He has lived in Jonesboro since 1968 and has seen many road improvements, but he has also seen the population boom, he said.

Reynolds said that intersections need to be worked on and a commuter rail needs to be brought to Jonesboro.

A commuter rail is essential to resolving traffic problems, Ralph McDuffie agreed.

"As long as population increases, we'll never have enough roads," McDuffie said. "I don't see how we can do it by increasing road size. It's only a matter of time before getting to Atlanta you'll be delayed two or three hours."

McDuffie, a Forest Park resident who has lived in the area since 1959, said he remembers when Jonesboro Road was two lanes through Forest Park. Adding more lanes has helped, but a single wreck can still clog traffic as quickly as on a two-lane road.

According to the Atlanta Regional Commission, metro Atlanta will have another 2.3 million people by 2030. That is equivalent to the size of Portland, Ore.

McDuffie, who sells real estate, said he sees no sign of the growth letting up.

"I don't see any slow down at all," he said. "We're seeing growth more and more everyday."

Part of the plan involves the commuter rail system, a project he said is essential to dealing with traffic problems.

"We're the only people not doing that," he said. "Of course, we'll have to get people to the rails."

A commuter rail is only one part of Mobility 2030, said Charles Krautler, the executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission.

"I think the challenge for the region is accommodating 2 ? million more people and handling congestion at the same time," Krautler said.

The Atlanta Regional Commission is "trying to squeeze as much productivity as we can from the current system," he said.

The largest portion of the $50 billion, about $26.4 billion, will be used for existing transportation systems, including the interstate system and MARTA.

About 39 percent of the funding is for expansion projects. The projects include roadway expansion, HOV lane expansion, bicycle and pedestrian projects and the Livable Centers Initiative.

"We would hope that we could provide some form of transit in every county (in metro Atlanta)," Krautler said.

Short-term projects for Mobility 2030 are upgrading and optimizing traffic signals, an interstate ramp metering program and adding a commuter railway stop in Lovejoy.