What should metro Atlanta’s vast network of roadways, transit systems, and more human-scale transportation alternatives look like in 26 years? It’s tough to say, but the region’s planning and intergovernmental coordination agency has officially updated its forecast.

On Wednesday, the Atlanta Regional Commission Board approved a major update to the Atlanta Metropolitan Transportation Plan, or MTP, which happens about every four years, providing groundwork for upgrades and maintenance across the 20-county metro.

The revised MTP allocates $168 billion in federal, state, and local funding to improve both transportation and safety between now and 2050. The ARC expects metro Atlanta to swell by another 1.8 million people by then, pushing the total population to 7.9 million.

The MTP is intended to create a roadmap for accommodating that population boost. It advocates for channeling billions toward transit expansion and bicycling-pedestrian infrastructure improvements such as unfinished BeltLine segments—but also toward hundreds of miles of new road lanes. Other aspects are meant to encourage alternative commute options, such as teleworking and carpooling.

ARC officials collaborate with local governments and transportation agencies to revise the MTP blueprint every few years. Encouragingly, it identifies transit expansion as “a critical investment that is needed as the Atlanta region continues to grow and become denser.”

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Obviously, the MTP isn’t a $168 billion check toward making these things happen. But the ARC does mandate that projects included in the MTP are fiscally constrained, meaning that “funding is reasonably anticipated to be available within the time period,” per the ARC.

The lion’s share of hypothetical funding—roughly $105 billion, or 63 percent of the total—is earmarked for maintaining, modernizing, and operating existing transportation infrastructure, including road resurfacing, bridge repair, and the replacement of aging railcars and buses.

The final step in the MTP approval process is having the U.S. Department of Transportation sign off on it, signifying that it meets all federal planning requirements for cities, and that metro Atlanta can proceed with implementing projects.

According to ARC officials, that decision can take up to a month after all MTP documents are submitted.

Below are some highlights of priorities outlined in the $168 billion, metro-wide plan:

$10 billion:

Constructing, sustaining transit services

Specific projects:

  • Atlanta Streetcar East Extension, from Jackson Street to Atlanta BeltLine/Ponce City Market.
  • Campbellton Road bus rapid transit, from Oakland City MARTA station to Greenbriar Mall.
  • Clayton Southlake bus rapid transit, from College Park MARTA station to Southlake Mall.
  • Buford Highway Arterial Rapid Transit, from Lindbergh MARTA station to Doraville MARTA station.
  • Candler Road Arterial Rapid Transit, from Avondale MARTA station to GSU Perimeter College.

$3.9 billion:

Expanding regional bike and pedestrian networks

Specific projects, all scheduled within the next four years:

  • Southwest and northeastern portions of the Atlanta BeltLine
  • Separated bike-ped lanes on the 10th bridge over the downtown Connector 
  • PATH 400 multi-use trail along Ga. Highway 400 in North Fulton County
  • Chattahoochee River Greenway Trail in Douglas County
  • Rockdale River Trail extension in Rockdale County
  • Chattahoochee RiverLands Trail pilot segment in Cobb County, part of the planned regional Chattahoochee RiverLands project.

$13.8 billion

Major thoroughfare, interchanges improvements

Specific projects, each expected to start construction in the next decade:

  • Managed express lanes on the top-end Perimeter, I-285 East, and I-285 West
  • Interchange reconstruction – I-285 West at I-20 in Fulton County
  • Interchange reconstruction – I-285 East at I-20 in DeKalb County
  • New interchange at I-85 North and McGinnis Ferry Road in Gwinnett County
  • Interchange reconstruction – I-20 East at SR 20/138 in Rockdale County

$8.1 billion

Adding nearly 600 lane-miles of roadways to the region’s arterial network

Specific projects scheduled in the next decade:

  • Piedmont Road widening from Lenox Road to Peachtree Road in Buckhead
  • Tara Boulevard widening from Tara Road to SR 54 (Fayetteville Road) in Clayton County
  • Panola Road widening from US 278 (Covington Highway) to Snapfinger Woods Drive in DeKalb County
  • Sugarloaf Parkway extension from I-85 to Peachtree Industrial Boulevard in Gwinnett County
  • South Barrett Parkway reliever from Barrett Lakes Boulevard to SR 5 connector in Cobb County


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