ARC adopts new growth guidelines

LAWRENCEVILLE - As the region adds an expected 2.4 million people through 2030, a sea of new homes and businesses will follow.

Funneling that future development into broad swaths of land beside transportation corridors and around town centers remains a key goal under the growth guidelines recently adopted by the Atlanta Regional Commission.

However, the new long-range plan further "links land use to transportation," said Tom Weyandt, ARC's director of comprehensive planning.

Encouraging development in areas where infrastructure already exists - and by doing so limiting sprawl - will curb future traffic congestion and make metro Atlanta's transportation system work more efficiently, Weyandt said.

That is important, he said, because the region will be hard-pressed to afford all the road and transit projects that will be needed to accommodate the newcomers.

"From the local, state and federal levels, it is clear that funding for transportation projects will be substantially less than what the demand for transportation services will be," Weyandt said.

"By necessity, we are going to have to find other ways to deal with our transportation requirements, both through land use and making sure we invest the funds we have in the smartest way possible."

ARC has already taken steps to channel growth to areas where people and businesses are already massed by awarding grants to cities and counties so they can improve roads, sidewalks and the "livability" of areas like downtown Norcross and Duluth.

Such efforts will produce more than 9 percent of all new housing created in the region since 2000, according to ARC.

Since the regional development guidelines are not mandatory for cities and counties, the grants serve as a "stick and carrot" approach.

The new guidelines will probably lead to roads, sidewalks, bike lanes and transit projects that would go in growth corridors and growth centers getting the first shot at being funded, Weyandt said.

ARC has identified $1.41 billion in transportation improvements that could be made in the Interstate 85 corridor through 2030.

The corridor would have the highest daily truck traffic of any interstate in metro Atlanta in 2030, and the amount of commuters passing through Gwinnett on Interstate 85 and Interstate 985 from Jackson, Hall and Barrow counties is expected to increase 65 percent, according to ARC.