More than 151 million tons of freight moves through and within the Atlanta region each year – that’s enough to fill 1,500 aircraft carriers or 414 Empire State Buildings.
And the amount of freight traffic is expected to grow to more than 260 million tons by 2040, driven by population and job growth in our region, the expansion of the Port of Savannah and the increase in home deliveries to meet growing e-commerce demands.
The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) board recently adopted an update to the Atlanta Regional Freight Mobility Plan that features short-term and long-term strategies to enhance the movement of freight in metro Atlanta.
We asked Daniel Studdard, a principal planner at ARC, to discuss the freight plan and what it means for the Atlanta region.
Q: Why does the region need a plan specifically for freight movement?
Freight is critical to the region’s economy and quality of life. Roughly 83 percent of the goods that move in and out of the Atlanta region do so on trucks, delivering food to grocery stores, medical equipment to hospitals and building supplies to construction sites.
Q: Metro Atlanta doesn’t have a port like Savannah or Charleston, so how important can freight really be?
Our region is one of the nation’s largest inland ports and serves as a major distribution hub.
To get an idea of how much freight moves through our region, more than 70,000 truckloads of goods travel between metro Atlanta and the Port of Savannah annually, carrying goods headed for our region as well as points across the eastern U.S. and farther afield. This number is only expected to grow as the Port of Savannah is deepened and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport handles increasing amounts of air cargo.
More importantly, nearly one-third of all metro Atlanta jobs are in industries that rely heavily on freight. These freight-dependent jobs and industries generate 38 percent of the Atlanta region’s gross domestic product – that adds up to $184 million.
Q: How does ARC’s freight plan help goods move more efficiently?
ARC worked closely with cities, counties, the trucking industry and private businesses to prioritize a long list of projects and programs so that the most important freight-related projects get underway first.
The plan is consistent with new federal funding regulations that, for the first time in U.S. history, specify funding for freight-related transportation projects.
Q: What are some of the key construction projects that are included in the plan?
The following projects, totaling roughly $1.4 billion, are critical for freight movement and are scheduled to begin construction by 2021:
- I-285 at Georgia 400 – Relieving congestion at this bottleneck is one of the most important projects in the state for freight and commuters.
- I-285 West and I-20 – Reconfigured interchange adds roadway capacity in an area with high freight volumes.
- I-85 at Senoia Road – Reconfigured interchange provides better access to the CSX Intermodal Yard and Oakley Industrial Boulevard in Fairburn, while reducing congestion for all motorists.
- I-285 at Camp Creek Parkway – This diverging diamond interchange will reduce congestion for commuters as well as trucks traveling to distribution centers and retail developments along this corridor.
- I-75 at Forest Parkway – Re-designed access lanes will make transitioning between I-75 and I-285 smoother, reducing congestion and improving safety for trucks and commuters in the Atlanta Aerotropolis area.
- SR 92 in Douglas Co. – Realignment allows trucks to pass through Douglasville more efficiently.
The plan also includes some key long-range projects to accommodate the expected growth in freight traffic. These include:
- I-75 near Bethlehem Road – A new interchange in Henry County, a major freight hub, will serve freight to and from Savannah and relieve congestion for motorists at other nearby interchanges.
- I-85 at Amlajack Boulevard – This new interchange in growing Coweta County will serve industrial and commercial freight while reducing congestion for all motorists at the Highway 34 interchange.
Q: Where can I learn more about the plan?
Visit atlantaregional.com/freight to learn more about the plan update.