The city’s Connect Atlanta plan is Atlanta’s effort to create a traffic plan to accommodate the transportation needs of existing residents and the 60 percent increase in city population expected by 2030. The plan, to be completed this year, includes a detailed mix of redeveloped intersections and corridors, new light rail and express bus service, and pedestrian-oriented features, coupled with new funding sources.

A big challenge for the Connect Atlanta team is finding a solution to Buckhead’s traffic problems. Our area is characterized by the lack of a street grid, which results in gridlock when things go wrong and, in some areas, even when they don’t go wrong (think the Buckhead Loop or the Piedmont/Roswell/Habersham intersections).

A surprising number of Buckhead workers commute from Cobb County and beyond. With no adequate transit alternative, they cut through and clog up residential surface streets such as West Paces Ferry and Wieuca roads. The lack of east-west corridors suitable for high-volume vehicle and/or transit traffic makes planning for Buckhead’s future particularly exasperating.

The Connect Atlanta team has paid a considerable amount of attention to this Buckhead problem, yet there is no adequate solution. An obvious grand fix would be to build a new highway and rapid transit line from Cobb County to the Buckhead Loop area, but that will never happen because of its horrible impact on some of Atlanta’s finest neighborhoods. And new roads just accelerate density and quickly clog.

Having observed the construction of the $135 million, 8-mile Nancy Creek Sewer Tunnel, I have suggested that the solution might be to go underground. That sewer tunnel was 18 feet in diameter in deep, solid rock several hundred feet underground; a similar tunnel might easily handle two-way subway train traffic. A 4-mile subway line could connect the Buckhead MARTA station to the light rail system planned along I-75, linking Cobb County to downtown Atlanta.

So far, the Connect Atlanta team has responded that a subway solution would be far too expensive. But having no solution means the continuing degradation of important neighborhoods and the gradual suffocation of our new high-density areas along Peachtree. I don’t think Atlanta can afford to leave this problem unsolved.

Gordon Certain is the president of the North Buckhead Civic Association. This article is reprinted from the association’s recent newsletter.

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