WH official: ‘Once-in-a-generation’ chance exists to transform Atlanta

Billions of dollars available to build new infrastructure and climate resilience
Automobiles travel south on the I-85 / I-75 connector from the view of the North Avenue bridge, Thursday, May 25, 2023, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

Automobiles travel south on the I-85 / I-75 connector from the view of the North Avenue bridge, Thursday, May 25, 2023, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Local leaders and federal officials cheered the progress and acknowledged the challenges unfolding across the rapidly-growing Metro Atlanta area at the annual “State of the Region” breakfast gala on Friday morning

But among the many messages from the speakers at the event, hosted by the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), one rang loud and clear: The city needs to capitalize on a massive wave of federal funding to connect the sprawling region and prepare for a hotter future.

In a Georgia World Congress Center ballroom filled with some of the city’s biggest power brokers, Mitch Landrieu, senior advisor to President Joe Biden and the White House’s infrastructure coordinator, said Atlanta has “a once-in-a-generation opportunity” to create a “New South.” The Biden administration has passed sweeping legislation aimed at rebuilding the country’s infrastructure and accelerating the transition to clean energy.

“We’re moving forward to a South that can lead in business growth, in innovation and technology, and in clean energy and manufacturing,” Landrieu.

Mitch Landrieu, a senior advisor to President Joe Biden and the White House’s infrastructure coordinator, speaks to a packed ballroom at the Georgia World Congress Center during the Atlanta Regional Commission's "State of the Region" event on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023.

Credit: Drew Kann

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Credit: Drew Kann

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in 2021 provides hundreds of billions in funding to repair the nation’s roads, bridges and highways, boost public transit and build a network of electric vehicle charging stations. As of September, Georgia had received $6.7 billion from the law, and money has flowed to several other high-profile projects around Metro Atlanta, like the Atlanta Beltline and “The Stitch” — a 14-acre greenspace that’s been proposed to be built over portions of the Downtown Connector.

Then there’s last year’s climate and health care law, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides hundreds of billions of additional funding and incentives to encourage cities and their residents to transition to clean energy.

The ARC, the metro’s area’s regional planning agency, has already secured some of that money. And after creating a new climate and resilience program, the commission has its sights set on more.

So far, the ARC has landed $3 million in climate-related funding, including $1 million to create a climate plan for the sprawling, 29-county region focused on solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The ARC’s executive director and CEO, Anna Roach, said Friday that the agency has requests for another $17 million in the pipeline.

The agency’s Metro Atlanta Speaks Survey, which was also released Friday, polled nearly 5,000 residents in 11 counties on several topics. Crime and the economy ranked as respondents top concerns, but climate change is also clearly on Atlantans’ minds: Nearly half of all respondents said they thought climate change would be a threat to the region over the next 10 years.

Just blocks from the ballroom where the event was held, a September deluge swamped parts of downtown Atlanta, and the city is facing increasingly intense and frequent heatwaves.

Roach and Landrieu said that now is the time for the region to prepare for the future.

“We’re looking at large-scale projects... that have the potential to transform our entire region and accelerate our resiliency against climate change and extreme weather events,” Roach said.


A note of disclosure

This coverage is supported by a partnership with 1Earth Fund, the Kendeda Fund and Journalism Funding Partners. You can learn more and support our climate reporting by donating at ajc.com/donate/climate/

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