It’s being called a historic example of the infamously balkanized Atlanta region getting along.

The Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority, or the ATL, is scheduled to host a signing next week for an agreement that brings together a multitude of agencies and cities to help remake the northern arc of Interstate 285 into an example of “next-generation… regional transit service,” according to officials.

Technically, the pact is called (deep breath) the I-285 Top End Express Lanes Transit Funding and Collaboration Memorandum of Understanding.

The intent is to improve mobility and on-time transit performance along the top of I-285, which the Georgia Department of Transportation has called one of America’s most congested and heavily traveled interstates, counting more than 240,000 vehicles daily, per 2019 data.

The express lanes project would add two new elevated, barrier-separated I-285 lanes in both directions, spanning roughly from I-75 to I-85, where transit services and vanpools would have free access, according to GDOT.


The ATL has been leading efforts to study how transit service could best be incorporated into the I-285 express lanes GDOT would build. Exactly what the “next-generation” transit options might look like hasn’t been finalized. GDOT has said the new lanes will be built to accommodate bus rapid transit, or BRT. 

The I-285 initiative has entered its third study phase, with the focus turning to station planning and coordination with GDOT, officials said this week.

The initial plans for station design are slated to be finished later this year, per the ATL. Cost estimates are also TBD.

The memorandum’s signing is scheduled to take place Wednesday morning at ARC’s downtown offices. Partners include MARTA, Atlanta Regional Commission, and the metro’s four largest counties, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett.

“This agreement represents a historic collaboration of MARTA and non-MARTA counties along with key state and regional agencies to explore next-generation multi-jurisdictional regional transit service,” the ATL reps stated in a media release.

Bridge overpasses under construction at the intersection of Ga. Highway 400 and I-285 in July 2019. Shutterstock

City governments and Community Improvement Districts from Smyrna to Brookhaven and Tucker have also championed the concept of express lanes transit on I-285 and provided data to help with cost estimates.  

Created by the Georgia General Assembly in 2018, the ATL is charged with forming a region-wide transit plan. As of summer 2020, the ATL has been authorized by state government leaders to oversee Georgia’s Xpress regional commuter transit system and the Atlanta region’s vanpool system. 

MARTA: Clifton Corridor bus rapid transit plans show promise (Urbanize Atlanta)