Atlanta I-85 collapse: The word on Monday’s commute? Not so horrible

Traffic was building, but still moving along Piedmont Road during Monday morning’s commute. (Photo: JOHN SPINK/

Traffic was building, but still moving along Piedmont Road during Monday morning’s commute. (Photo: JOHN SPINK/

Maybe it’s because commuters left extra early to head to work. Maybe it’s because most metro Atlanta schools are out for spring break.

Whatever the reason, Monday morning’s commute around a gaping hole in I-85 wasn’t as bad as some expected. Shortly after 7 a.m., traffic was moving northbound on the Buford-Spring Connector — until drivers passed the site of the bridge collapse. There, some drivers slowed to look at what remains of the interstate.

“There’s a chunk of 85 gone,” one commuter, Nyssa Green, said. “It’s the craziest thing to even see that.”

Almost as crazy was the site of an empty I-85 just north of the collapse. Under a haze of demolition dust, work continued Monday at the site of last week's fire and bridge collapse. It's expected to take months to repair the portion of the interstate, and then, commuters are being forced onto side streets

His commute to Peachtree-DeKalb airport took about 10 minutes longer. But Jason Durden, Channel 2 Action News traffic reporter, said it was the gawkers that slowed traffic. One driver, Durden said, even stopped to take a picture of the collapsed bridge.

“I really don’t think it would have been slow like it was if people would just keep their eyes forward and moving along,” Durden said. “But, with something like this it certainly isn’t a surprise people are gawking.”

Just south of the collapse, the eerie sight of an empty I-85 was also eye-catching.

Green, a makeup artist, drives from College Park home to clients all over town. For 20 years, she said she’s heard her husband tell her she needs to know alternative routes “just in case” something happened. Since Thursday, she's been forced to follow her husband’s advice. She was on her way to work when she stopped at QuikTrip on Sidney Marcus Boulevard.

“I’ve been a rock star,” she said. “I’m getting around pretty good.”

Jasmine Bostick, who lives in Buckhead, works as a veterinary technician in Dunwoody. She was prepared for traffic to be much worse Monday morning but was surprised to see it lighter than normal. Bostick was planning to head north on Ga. 400 to get to work. But on Friday, she was forced off her normal route.

“I had to learn how to get to 75,” she said.

Riding MARTA has become a necessity for many commuters stranded by the collapse of the I-85 bridge. Here are a few pointers for MARTA newbies.

One man stopped for coffee on his way into work and said he'd taken the same route he'd always taken. A woman said she left home earlier, just to be sure she'd make it work on time.

Later Monday morning, side streets filled with drivers who were forced to exit from I-85. Piedmont Road, Cheshire Bridge Road and Monroe Avenue were busy but still moving around 9:30 a.m.

By many accounts, driving on the first Monday morning after the bridge collapse wasn't as bad as some imagined. But for Green, that could mean the worst is yet to come.

"I'm so nervous about what's gonna come in a week or two," she said.

— Please return for updates.