Think tank touts toll lanes and tunnels in Atlanta

| Monday, November 27, 2006

A Libertarian think tank has a few suggestions for easing traffic congestion in Atlanta - a system of toll lanes and tunnels.

A new report from the Reason Foundation is based on an Atlanta Regional Commission document about congestion and commute times. Based on that report, the Reason Foundation figures that by 2030, a 30-minute commute will take 55 minutes and Atlanta's congestion will compare to that in Los Angeles.

The Reason Foundation and the Georgia Public Policy Foundation issued a four-part suggestion for Atlanta that is detailed right down to the $25 billion price tag.

First, 1,132 miles of new toll lanes should be added to all freeways, the foundation says, and existing carpool lanes should become toll lanes - free for buses, of course.

Second, the city should link the Georgia 400 with Interstate 20 with a double-decker tunnel that could later include a link to Interstate 675.

Third, a tolled tunnel could further relieve I-20 to the east, and an upgraded Campbellton Road and Camp Creek Parkway could provide relief to the west.

The fourth suggestion is for a separate toll road for trucks that permits truckers to bypass the city in exchange for a toll.

"A portion of this system would be tunneled below downtown," the report stated.

The Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority called the report "intriguing," and issued a statement to the media.

"It should be read and considered by all who are faced with making critical decisions regarding Atlanta's transportation future," authority officials said. "SRTA is particularly encouraged by the Reason Foundation's endorsement of tolling and user-fee financing as an important component of any effort to provide mobility and funding options to the Atlanta region and the state of Georgia."

The author of the Reason Foundation report is Robert Poole, who founded the think tank. According to the foundation's Web site, Poole is an MIT-trained engineer and has advised the last four presidential administrations on transportation and policy issues.

"For the foreseeable future, toll lanes are Atlanta's best answer," Poole stated in a preamble to the report.

Atlanta and the state of Georgia continue to work on ways to relieve congestion in the long term.

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