The Midtown Connector project aims to turn this… 

Traffic on I-75 in downtown Atlanta

…into this 

Rendering of the new Downtown Connector

Wait. Where did the highway – and all those cars – go? 

In this far-reaching vision, they’re still there, just underneath a highly engineered ‘cap’ that includes about 10 blocks of new greenspace, between North Ave. and 10th Ave. 

Backers say the project would re-connect the east and west sides of Midtown, improve traffic and safety, provide increased access for walkers and bicyclists, and even offer environmental benefits such as stormwater retention and improved air quality. 

It’s far from a crazy idea. It’s actually modeled on successful projects in places like Dallas, Chicago, and Seattle that have converted noisy, community-dividing highways into verdant, urban centerpieces. 

The project is being spearheaded by a nonprofit known as the MCP Foundation. Project leadership includes Paul Morris, who used to helm the Atlanta BeltLine. 

The team has developed detailed plans, including renderings, and are reaching out to community organizations and the public to share their big idea. The MCP Foundation recently presented an overview of the project at ARC’s Transportation & Air Quality Committee and has also developed a website and is planning a series of community conversations to explain the project in more detail.

Of course, funding will be a significant hurdle. Officials estimate the total price tag at $800 million to $1.2 billion, requiring a range of public, private, and philanthropic funding sources. The group is also exploring creating a special service tax district in the project area. 

Let’s delve into some of the project details. 

Greenspace & Environment 

  • About 25 acres of park, greenspace and tree canopy added to the region 
  • A stormwater capture, filtration, and reuse system
  • Carbon dioxide reduction through landscape absorption and storage 
  • Connector vehicle exhaust captured and cleaned through tunnel filtration system 
  • Dramatic reduction in highway traffic noise 

Traffic & Safety 

  • Highway shoulder upgrades, exit reconfiguration, and new collector-distributor system 
  • A tunnel structure with emergency access stairwells and fire suppression system 
  • Travel delays reduced by 37% on northbound lanes and 13% on southbound lanes 
  • Connector interchange crashes reduced by 52% 
  • Crashes on Midtown are streets reduced by 15% 

Access & Mobility 

  • New street, bicycle, and pedestrian connections 
  • Connector crossing street network expanded by 100% 
  • Local area street network increased by 150% 
  • Protected interconnected pedestrian/bike access expanded by more than 3.5 miles 

What’s Next ATL, produced by the Atlanta Regional Commission, is a community resource that explores how metro Atlanta is growing and changing, and how the region is addressing its most pressing challenges.