Q&A on the News

Q: If a highway tunnel was to be built under Atlanta neighborhoods, would the property above it need to be purchased by the DOT or could they just dig under existing homes and businesses? I thought homeowners owned the land under their homes. In constructing it, could it be done by tunneling or would they have to dig, then later cover the tunnel?

—Tom Zarrilli, Atlanta

A: The highway tunnel is one of the options the Georgia Department of Transportation is examining to create greater mobility on the Downtown Connector. The review of this option is in the very preliminary stages, DOT officials said. Property ownership does extend, ad infinitum, below ground level, according to the DOT. If it became necessary, in the construction of a tunnel, to go underground beneath a business or residential property, the agency would have to acquire the appropriate rights, the DOT said. If the tunnel did not access the surface at that particular location, most likely those appropriate rights would be similar to a subterranean easement, which the DOT says is somewhat like acquiring mineral rights. If the tunnel construction technique required access to the surface at the location, either temporarily or permanently, the process would be more of a traditional right-of-way acquisition. A basic objective of a tunnel and tunnel construction is to minimize surface requirements and interaction, DOT officials said.

Lori Johnston wrote this column. Do you have a question about the news? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or e-mail q&a@ajc.com (include name, phone and city).