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Deal interested in east-west connector south of Atlanta
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Talks of an east-west connector are creeping back into Georgia's political atmosphere.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal released his transportation plan Monday, expressing interest in an east to west highway below Atlanta and its busy interstate system.

"We are looking at where the state has needs. We have strong corridors with I-75 and I-85, but east and west there's only I-20. We have Highway 17 and 27 in the west, but nothing that connects the state well from the east to the west," said Deal spokesman Brian Robinson. "About 100,000 tractor-trailers are on the Atlanta roads every day, and this will divert a lot of that traffic off Atlanta highways into the east-west corridor south of Atlanta."

In 2002, Deal's opponent and then-Gov. Roy Barnes backed an east-west connector project known as the Northern Arc that was met with heavy local opposition.

According to Times archives, the proposed arc would have been a 76-mile highway about 30 miles north of Atlanta. It was planned to run through Gwinnett, Forsyth, Cherokee and Bartow counties to alleviate traffic on Interstate 285 by linking

I-75 to Ga. 400 and eventually I-85.

As Barnes seeks to win his old job back, he is instead focusing on investments in mass transit infrastructure. Included in his transportation plan is an elevated light-rail system that would run over Atlanta highways to provide options for suburban commuters.

"I'm sure the voters in Congressman Deal's old congressional district would like to have congestion alleviated in their region first. As most of the residents of Hall County know, the majority of the congestion issues are north of Atlanta," said Barnes spokesman Anna Ruth Williams. "As governor, Roy will expand Georgia's highway system and connect our state with commuter and high speed rail so we are positioned for economic growth and opportunity."
The Barnes campaign declined to comment further.

Though much of the traffic on Atlanta highways is heading north to the suburbs, Robinson said a northern arc is not feasible.

"The opposition to that project is well known and I think the opposition would be just as strong today, and the logistics of it would be even more difficult because of the growth that has occurred over the last eight years," he said.

Robinson said Deal's plan for a southern arc would help any driver who wants to get around the Atlanta area.

"If we can give those tractor trailers an alternative route that is less congested, just as fast and allows them to get to their destinations without hitting Atlanta traffic, that's going to benefit them and it's going to benefit Atlanta commuters," Robinson said.

Staff writer Carolyn Crist contributed to this report.

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