A plan to construct an underground highway beneath east Atlanta received new life this month, appearing at the top of a list of proposed projects released by the Georgia Department of Transportation.
The proposal seeks to connect GA-400 and I-675 through a subterranean toll road which would serve as an alternative to the Downtown Connector and be funded through the state’s recently renewed Public-Private Partnership, or P3, program.
An initial estimate of the work pegged construction costs at around $3.7 billion - with private-sector investments being used to develop the tunnel, and commuters eventually footing the bill through tolls.
The GDOT originally rolled out the list of P3 projects in early November in order to draw interest from investors. More recently the department spoke out on the conspicuous presence of the underground highway atop the agenda – one spokesman telling the AJC that the proposal had the greatest likelihood of any listed to significantly ease congestion.
The plan has been both highly touted and highly criticized over the past few years, with policymakers lauding the potential for congestion mitigation and increased mobility, while residents of east Atlanta condemn the project’s potential to destroy residential areas.
A similar proposal to link the two highways with an above-ground thoroughfare in the 1970s fell flat following a strong public outcry from residents of east Atlanta, and even with the more modern design, residents have again been wary.
Though the project must first be approved by the Atlanta Regional Commission, the GDOT plans to proceed with additional toll lane projects on the P3 list, which include installing lanes on I-75, I-285, I-20 and GA-400.
Both environmental and social impact studies must be completed before work would begin.