So, 2018 is in the books, and it was an eventful year.

The Atlanta-region Transit Authority – the ATL from here on out – sprang to life, as did Express Lanes on I-75 and I-575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties.

We learned how to ride – and dodge – the ubiquitous electric scooters with quirky names (Bird? Lime?) that suddenly appeared all over town.

And while Amazon ultimately chose not to open their “HQ2” in Atlanta, the local economy remained red-hot. The year ended with news that Norfolk Southern was moving its headquarters to Atlanta, adding to the region’s roster of Fortune 500 companies.

What will the New Year bring? Here are some things to look out for in 2019, as the region continues to grow and change:

Regional Transit on Track to Have Big Year

Buckle up. Transit should be a hot topic in 2019.

For starters, Gwinnett County voters in March will decide whether the county will join MARTA, nearly 30 years after the county last took up the issue.

And the clock is ticking on Cobb County, which under the ATL legislation must hold a referendum by Dec. 1, 2019 if they want to create a special transit tax district within the county.

Meanwhile, MARTA will ramp up work on its More MARTA program, a $2.7 billion, 40-year effort to expand bus and rail service and other improvements.

Housing Affordability in the Spotlight

More and more of us are getting priced out of the housing market, while rents are soaring at a much faster rate than wages.

If 2018 was the year housing affordability issue fully arrived on the region’s radar, 2019 promises to be when metro Atlanta leaders address the challenge head on.

But it won’t be easy. The roots of the problem run deep, from a dearth of new housing units being built to the rising cost of land and materials.

‘South Downtown’ the New Hot Spot

The construction cranes, and the buzz, are headed south – South Downtown, that is, the long-ignored section of downtown Atlanta below the train tracks.

While it’s not clear when construction will start, projects are flying off the drawing boards as developers capitalize on oodles of untapped potential to transform the area into a more vibrant, walkable area. Here’s what’s going on:

  • South of Five Points MARTA station – Germany based developer Newport has purchased dozens of properties in the area and has plans to renovate and lease space for restaurants, shops, breweries and entertainment venues. Curbed Atlanta has some cool renderings of what may be on the horizon, and leasing company JLL has a terrific presentation with more details.
  • The ‘Gulch’ – A mini-city with office space, retail, residents and a hotel is being planned by CIM Group on about 27 acres of weedy parking lots that stretches from CNN Center to the Russell Federal Courthouse. The AJC published a great overview with plenty of details.
  • Old Norfolk Southern – The old offices for the freight rail giant are set to be transformed into 246 housing units. The renderings are eye-popping.
  • Underground Atlanta – The historic heart of downtown Atlanta is set for a massive overhaul, transforming a four-block radius into a “sustainable community where people can live, work, create, and explore,” according to developer WRS.

Watch Out: Construction Zone Ahead

The state DOT’s massive highway improvement program will continue in 2019.

Most notably, action will heat up on the re-build of the interchange of I-285 and Ga. 400, set to be completed in 2020. The widening of I-85 from I-985 to SR 53 will continue in 2019, with completion expected in 2020.

Meanwhile, planning and preparation will continue for the Ga. 400 Express Lanes, with construction set to begin in 2021.

Water Wars Continue to Flow

In 2019, we’ll likely see a lot of action involving one of the Water Wars cases: Florida’s lawsuit against Georgia over water apportionment in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin. The case is complicated, but this overview helps explain things.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June to send the case back to a Special Master for additional fact-finding. Filings and responses are due in early 2019, with a potential hearing to follow. Once the Special Master makes a recommendation, the case will then return to the Supreme Court, potentially in 2020.

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.