Atlanta is embarking on a massive highway capping project called The Stitch. While it will be transformative in connecting Downtown Atlanta, there’s another area that should be considered for highway capping that would have far greater benefits on the everyday lives of residents along with providing dense, affordable housing options.
Currently, I-20 slices through some of the most densely populated residential areas East and West of Atlanta. Numerous Black communities – especially West of Downtown were severed from each other after it’s construction.
Why not just remove it?
Highway removal 100% would be the best option here. But, in most situations is a non-starter with officials. In this case, it would actually prove more difficult to remove due to all of the streets being above the current interstate. However, as this is just a dream idea – any formal analysis would certainly consider the possibility. The goal here is to start a conversation. I’d love to hear input and ideas from everyone.
From the Downtown Connector out toward Maynard Terrace, I-20 sits below grade from most of the cross streets. Unfortunately West of Downtown, most of the intersecting roads are under the interstate so it will be harder to work out a plan for that. There’s also a high concentration of on and off ramps within a short distance leading to increased weaving, congestion, and driver confusion.
Using the sub grade to our advantage a series of bridges to create a cap structure over the highway is feasible.
Capping the interstate between Capital Ave and Maynard Terrace would include:
- Over a dozen new connections that do not exist today to reconnect East Atlanta neighborhoods
- Elimination of four sets of on / off ramps to reduce weaving and confusion along the main line
- A new urban boulevard serving as the heart of East Atlanta
- Dedicated bike facilities linking from Downtown to Maynard Terrace
- Potential for Streetcar or BRT service along the Boulevard
- Over 100 acres of reclaimed development land for dense housing, and mixed-use development leading to increased affordable housing options
- Ample opportunity for new greenspace
Segment 1: Capital Ave to Hill St
Segment 1 would serve as the transition point. New ramps would be constructed to / from I-20 up to the new Boulevard while the interstate continues below. At the intersection with Martin St is where the Boulevard would formally begin with development opportunity in the Northeast Quadrant.
Segment 2: Hill St to Boulevard
Segment 2 would stretch from Hill St to Boulevard. The Hill St interchange would be eliminated. The interchange would no longer be needed due to the enhanced access the new East Atlanta Boulevard would bring. West facing ramps going down to the capped highway at Boulevard would be provided for access toward the Downtown Connector. Residential development zones would straddle the reclaimed land on the North side of East Atlanta Boulevard with larger mixed use opportunities at the corners.
Segment 3: Boulevard to Bill Kennedy Way
Segment 3 is perhaps where the most development and connectivity opportunity is found and where the Atlanta Beltline would intersect East Atlanta Boulevard. The elimination of the East facing Boulevard ramps and Bill Kennedy Way ramps would be eliminated to maximize the urban feel. The Glenwood Place Kroger should also be reoriented to face East Atlanta Boulevard and it’s surface lots redeveloped to maximize density.
Segment 4: Bill Kennedy Way to Moreland Ave
Segment 4 sees a large opportunity for development with the land reclaimed from the Moreland Ave interchange as well as the addition of several new neighborhood connections.
Segment 5: Moreland Ave to Maynard Terrace
Segment 5 stretches Eastward to Maynard Terrace and Clifton St where there would be a modified interchange to facilitate users to and from I-20 below. It also presents several greenspace and development opportunities to maximize the urban density.
Challenges and Benefits
- While all the existing bridges have sufficient clearance there may be areas in between that do not, which would drive the price up
- Department approval: Could be a tough sell to get all parties on board
- A thriving focal point for East Atlanta
- Opportunities to integrate transit into a densely populated neighborhood
- Countless new connections that have been severed since the 1960’s
- Opportunity to add 1000s of new residents less than three miles from Downtown creating a dense, non car dependent neighborhood
- Reduced pollution, emissions, noise resulting in better health for the area
- Opportunity to add much needed affordable housing close to Downtown and Transit
This project would truly reconnect and set up East Atlanta for the future and fits the bill perfectly for what the Reconnecting Communities initiative is meant to do. It must be done with equity as the centerpiece though.
Love the idea? Hate it? Suggestions to make it better? The goal is to start a conversation and to create better cities for our future. I’d love to hear from everyone.
Coming soon, I’ll explore something similar for I-20 West of Downtown Atlanta. Stay tuned!
Opinions and insights are my own and are not representative of my employer or any organization. Any ideas displayed on this site are purely that – just ideas to help improve the future of the built environment.
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