Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Piedmont Park residents not cool with tunnels under Atlanta

Posted By on Tue, Feb 24, 2009 at 5:55 PM

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Lawmaker and developers should know this about Piedmont Park by now. If you even come close to threatening the city's most iconic greenspace, you better be prepared for a vocal reaction from its residents and supporters.

That's why residents near Piedmont Park are keeping their eyes on one of the General Assembly's proposed solutions to the state's notorious congestion problem.

House Resolution 206, sponsored by state Rep. Vance Smith, R-Pine Mountain, proposes a statewide one-cent sales tax to fund $25 billion of projects ranging from transit to roads. Included in the legislation is a controversial project: Tunnels underneath the city.

Cue the outrage.

If subterranean tunnels sound like a novel approach to fixing congestion — especially for the trucks that already clog I-285 to bypass the city — keep in mind that they come with a price. From a Sept. 2007 CL article by Joe Winter:

At least, you gotta figure, the tunnels would give Atlanta's neighborhoods some dignity and stay out of sight. You'd be wrong, though. To a surprising extent, the scheme would dot Atlanta's landscape with big, ugly structures meant to pull pollution from the tunnels into the air over Atlanta.

The three Atlanta double-decker tunnels would run for around 28 miles, much of it under some of the city's most desirable neighborhoods, including Morningside, Virginia-Highland, Edgewood, East Atlanta, Ormewood Park, Midtown and Summerhill.

Residents of potentially at-risk neighborhoods are already circulating emails telling  neighbors to call their lawmakers. An email from grassroots advocacy group Citizens for Progressive Transit says the group opposes the idea. The House may vote on the proposal on Wednesday.

How this plays out, however, may depend on a different piece of legislation. Last week, Gov. Sonny Perdue made clear that he wouldn't support either the House or Senate's proposals until lawmakers approved his massive reorganization of the state's transportation agencies. That legislation, Senate Bill 200, dropped last week. It's a big, game-changing bill, one that includes a lot of eyebrow-raising language. We're sifting through it and will report soon.

(Photo courtesy of Cofiroute)

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