Anyone familiar with the general daily rush hour suffering heading north outside the perimeter (OTP) of Atlanta can take heart. They’re under new leadership and are well-funded. Will the misery end for your Black Friday shopping and general holiday malaise this year? Not so fast. But hope springs eternal. At least area leaders seem to realize that things can only get worse without some serious advance analysis.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the plan of the Gateway85 Community Improvement District (CID) will include a specific focus on the area roughly south of Jimmy Carter Boulevard and west of I-85, as this area was identified as a “freight-intensive cluster” by the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC). Freight movement, mobility, and infrastructure will be studied. The CID will also consider the workforce associated with the industry (i.e. transit, workforce transportation, etc.). The plan will include involvement of business owners, representatives of local governments within the area, and significant public input.
The goal of the Gateway85 CID is to “increase property values, promote business development and improve the quality of life for all those who live, work and play in the village,” according to their website. They are also the “largest single CID in the state of Georgia.” The CID is a public-private partnership funded by commercial property owners in the 14-square mile area spanning the I-85 corridor in southwest Gwinnett County. Gwinnett is the largest suburban county of Atlanta.
Based upon the findings of the study, the CID will develop the freight plan, which will provide recommendations, including potential projects, aimed at improving freight-related issues within the study area. The project is funded by the ARC, Gwinnett County Department of Transportation and the CID. At the September 13th, 2018 board meeting, Gateway85 board members approved the selection of Cambridge Systematics as the consultant who will work on the project. More details will be provided as the board meets and plans are made available to the public.
Fortunately, this isn’t the only solution the area is looking for improvements. Another unique vision for congestion improvement comes out of Georgia along the I-75 corridor. They’re looking at a toll-free, truck-only highway running through one of the most congested corridors in the state. The toll-free highway would stretch 40 miles (65 kilometers) from metro Atlanta to Macon (northbound only). It would give trucks their own separate roadway, which would have its own exits and entrances, John Hibbard, the Georgia DOT’s operations director, said.
4,317 people died in crashes where large trucks were involved in 2016, according to the most recent federal statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A separate highway for trucks could boost safety for both regular cars and freight operators, according to GDOT’s fact sheet on what’s called the I-75 Commercial Vehicle Lanes. The project is “projected to reduce delay on I-75 by 40 percent in 2030” and could also lower maintenance costs on the lanes for passenger cars.
Matt Casale is a transportation analyst with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. His team listed the state’s estimated $1.8 billion for truck-only lanes among the worst highway projects in America in 2017, saying it “would represent a giveaway to the trucking industry, while undermining a rail-based approach to freight movement in Georgia that is intended to get trucks off the roads.”
Perhaps rail will reduce congestion on Georgia’s highways in the coming years as well. The Mason Mega Rail project, announced earlier this year, will help expand rail capacity by 100 percent while reducing impact on the local community and throughout the supply chain.
For as bad as Atlanta is, Georgia as a whole ranks 18th in the nation in highway performance and cost-effectiveness in the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. Georgia ranks 27th in fatality rate, 9th in deficient bridges, 29th in rural Interstate pavement condition, 18th in urban Interstate pavement condition, but 47th in urbanized area congestion. On spending, Georgia ranks 19th in total disbursements per mile and 43rd in administrative disbursements per mile. Georgia’s best rankings are rural arterial pavement condition (7th), deficient bridges (9th) and maintenance disbursements per mile (15th). Georgia’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 10th largest system.
If you’re in need of keeping up with the holiday season service for 2018, you can keep up with the schedules by going to @gctransit or @Gateway85Gwinn on Twitter or call 770-822-5010 for questions at the Gwinnett County customer service line.