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ARC’s mobility plan offers ‘glimmer of hope’ as residents struggle to move about

David Pendered
Sandy Springs, sidewalks, marta

By David Pendered

A glimmer of hope is one key component of the 30-year plan for spending $174 billion to improve mobility in metro Atlanta.

perry boulevard, scotts crossing

Transportation and other urban amenities have to be provided to residences and shops built recently in Atlanta’s once-blighted Scotts Crossing neighborhood, located at the far western end of Perry Boulevard, at its intersection with Hollywood Road. Credit: David Pendered

Authors of the plan, at the Atlanta Regional Commission, have taken pains to convey this glimmer in the Regional Transportation Plan. This bright spot appears in a plan that makes abundantly clear that traffic congestion will remain a fact of life.

At the outset, ARC Executive Director Doug Hooker doesn’t mince words in his forward to the RTP. Hooker begins with a reality check:

  • “It’s critically important to note that metro Atlanta can’t build its way out of congestion. Every thriving metro area wrestles with traffic.”

For starters, only $1 out of every $4 that’s to be spent is earmarked for new transit, roads, bicycle lanes, and travel demand options such as Georgia Commute Options, David Haynes, an ARC principle planner, said at a Dec. 13 discussion of the RTP by ARC’s Transportation Coordinating Committee.

The lion’s share – 72 percent – of the $174 billion is destined to be spent to maintain roads, transit and other amenities, and to pay administrative expenses such as engineering and planning. A small portion is reserved for unforeseen costs.

This is when Hooker’s glimmer of hope is intended to kick in. Hooker’s forward continues:

  • “But that doesn’t mean things can’t improve. A balanced approach – better roads and highways, expanded transit, safer places to walk and bike – can make a real difference. This philosophy is at the heart of our Regional Transportation Plan.”

Hooker’s remark introduces a draft RTP that is almost complete. The RTP is subject to ongoing revision, Haynes said – adding that an amendment is already being contemplated for the RTP that hasn’t been formally adopted.

The adoption schedule Haynes outlined looks like this:

ARC’s long-range mobility plan must navigate a series of steps before reaching a point it can be approved by local officials, and the governor’s agent, and sent to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Credit: ARC

  • Public comment – Nov. 11 to Dec. 13. Although the official comment period is closed, Haynes said the ARC continues to accept public comments, but they will not be part of the official record;
  • Late January – ARC planners release the final document;
  • Transportation Coordinating Committee reviews the plan, and issues its recommendation to the Transportation and Air Quality Committee;
  • The Transportation and Air Quality Committee issues its recommendation to the board that oversees the ARC;
  • ARC’s board is to vote to approve or reject the proposed RTP;
  • March 11 – the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority is to vote to accept or reject the Transportation Improvement Program, which is a component of the RTP. GRTA acts as the governor’s agent in the approval process.
  • Post March 11 – The U.S. Department of Transportation rules as to whether the RTP conforms to federal requirements.

Among the federal requirements are seven national goals related to USDOT’s financial aid program in a section of the U.S. Code, under National goals and performance management measures:

Sandy Springs, sidewalks, marta

The long-range mobility plan devised by ARC aims to ensure areas including this stretch of Roswell Road, in Sandy Springs, has suitable roads, MARTA service and sidewalks for pedestrians to reach destinations including a bus stop. Credit: David Pendered

  1. Safety – To achieve a significant reduction in traffic fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads;
  2. Infrastructure condition – To maintain the highway infrastructure asset system in a state of good repair;
  3. Congestion reduction – To achieve a significant reduction in congestion on the National Highway System.
  4. System reliability – To improve the efficiency of the surface transportation system.
  5. Freight movement and economic vitality – To improve the National Highway Freight Network, strengthen the ability of rural communities to access national and international trade markets, and support regional economic development.
  6. Environmental sustainability – To enhance the performance of the transportation system while protecting and enhancing the natural environment.
  7. Reduced project delivery delays – To reduce project costs, promote jobs and the economy, and expedite the movement of people and goods by accelerating project completion through eliminating delays in the project development and delivery process, including reducing regulatory burdens and improving agencies’ work practices.

 

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David Pendered
David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.

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