So you’re planning on driving downtown for this weekend’s Final Four basketball games, fan festivities and free concerts. The best advice: Don’t. Take MARTA instead.
Atlanta police are expecting more than 100,000 people per day to make their way into downtown, so if you absolutely must drive, leave early and pack plenty of patience, because traffic is bound to be a mess with some roads closed from now until Monday.
In addition to the Final Four events centered around the Georgia Dome and Centennial Olympic Park, the Braves have home games Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon at Turner Field, and the Hawks play Philadelphia on Friday night at Philips Arena.
At 7:30 a.m. Saturday, a Final Four 5K road race will begin at the Georgia World Congress Center, and the Division II and III championship basketball games will be held Sunday at Philips Arena.
The weekend’s “main event,” the Final Four, tips off with Saturday’s semi-final games at the Georgia Dome, followed by Monday night’s championship game at the Dome.
If there’s a bright spot in the predictions of traffic gloom and doom, it’s that the roads should be dry all weekend.
Friday morning’s lingering showers and drizzle should give way by the afternoon to sunny skies that will prevail through Monday. Despite Friday’s chilly wake-up temperatures in the low 40s, forecasters are promising highs in the 70s Saturday through Monday.
Free concerts will add to traffic
Doug Turnbull in the AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB Traffic Center highlights that the free concerts are likely to bring in non-basketball fans, further complicating the traffic.
“Not only will the basketball games bring the masses, but free concerts all afternoon and evening Friday through Sunday will jam traffic in the area,” Turnbull said. “Parking will be at a premium, so take MARTA to any downtown event this weekend.”
Those free concerts, featuring acts such as the Zac Brown Band, Ludacris, Sting and the Dave Matthews Band, will all be held at Centennial Olympic Park, which will open to concert-goers at 3 p.m. Friday, noon Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
MARTA spokeswoman Cara Hodgson said extra trains will be running Friday through Monday, and additional staff and transit police will be on hand to assist customers.
Hodgson reminds riders that while parking for up to 24 hours is free at all of MARTA’s daily parking facilities, customers parking in the decks at the Lindbergh Center station must park in designated areas and validate their parking tickets at machines inside the station to receive free daily parking. In addition to the free lots, there are designated lots which charge a fee at the Lenox, Brookhaven, Kensington and College Park stations.
Suggested routes from APD
Atlanta police spokeswoman Elizabeth Espy had the following suggestions for drivers “who absolutely must drive into the city”:
Coming from the north, exit I-75 at Northside Drive and follow it south to the Dome.
Other exits from I-75/85 southbound include Williams Street or Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, but both of these are expected to back up early.
From the South, drivers on I-75/85 should take the International Boulevard, Fulton Street or Central Avenue exits.
Fans coming in on I-20 east should use the Windsor/Spring Street exit, while the best exits on I-20 west are Capitol Avenue or Windsor Street.
Weekend road construction halted
The state Department of Transportation is doing its part to ease traffic headed into town by limiting most interstate construction all weekend.