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Atlanta preps for Super Bowl traffic

Atlanta police have some advice if you’re planning to attend the upcoming Super Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Don’t drive.

That was the key takeaway Wednesday as the Atlanta Police Department offered a peek at the city’s traffic plans for the Feb. 3 game. That plan includes a slew of lane closures around the stadium and elsewhere, plus some key road closures downtown as early as two weeks before the big game.

To avoid what will surely be significant traffic congestion, Deputy Chief Scott Kreher offered a simple strategy.

“MARTA, MARTA, MARTA, ride-share or your sneakers,” Kreher told nearly 100 residents at the Georgia World Congress Center. Translation: Take public transportation, pay for a car or taxi ride or walk.

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Atlanta officials expect 150,000 out-of-town guests for the Super Bowl, and more than a million people are expected to attend a series of related events over 10 days in January and February. Getting those visitors to and from events is a major focus of the city’s planning.

Just getting the teams, their owners and NFL officials to and from the stadium are major operations that will affect traffic, Kreher said Wednesday. Throw in concerts, awards ceremonies and other festivities – plus security and other considerations for all of them – and it’s a recipe for gridlock in a city that knows something about awful traffic.

Among the road closures: 

  • Mitchell Street will be closed from Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to Elliot Street from Jan. 21 through Feb. 7
  • Northside Drive will be closed from Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard to Martin Luther King Jr. Drive from the evening of Feb. 2 through Monday morning Feb. 4.

But full road closures are the exception. More pervasive will be a series of lane closures in and around the stadium. Some will last just a few hours, others for days.

Streets around the Fox Theater will also be affected as the NFL holds an awards ceremony there the Saturday before the game.

The Atlanta Police Department hopes fans use MARTA to get to the upcoming Super Bowl, just as many college football fans did during the recent SEC Championship (pictured). The department plans to close roads and lanes in the days leading up to the Feb. 3 Super Bowl. (Casey Sykes for (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)) (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The police department will have 180 officers working streets and intersections to direct traffic. But officers can only do so much. To minimize congestion during the Super Bowl and in the days before and after, Atlanta officials are encouraging people traveling in the area to take MARTA trains or buses.

Trains will operate round-the-clock from the Friday before the game to the Tuesday after. Some bus routes also will have expanded hours, and the Atlanta Streetcar will operate throughout the events.

The city also will have designated ride-sharing drop-off and pickup points. And, of course, a willingness to walk a bit will get you away from the worst of the traffic.

The city will post the details of its traffic plan on its Super Bowl web site – www.atlsuperbowl53.com – in coming days. In the meantime, it’s been meeting with community and business groups to spread the word about how they’ll be affected.

“As we put these plans together, residents and businesses were foremost in our mind,” said Amy Patterson, vice president of operations and logistics for Atlanta’s Super Bowl Host Committee.

Some residents aren’t so sure. Sandra Bush lives on Joseph E. Lowry Boulevard near the stadium. She said traffic is already awful at rush hour and on Atlanta Falcons game days. She expects it will be even worse during the Super Bowl, despite the plans she studied Wednesday.

“I shouldn’t be put out of my home for one event,” Bush said.

Sheri Ricks runs two restaurants in the shadow of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. She told Channel 2 Action News’ Berndt Petersen that the Super Bowl crowds could give her restaurants a record-breaking week. But she needs to find a way to get her servers and chefs to work. 

"It may be taking MARTA. We may be doing some Uber, ride-share. We're not really sure of that,” Ricks said.

Angel Poventud lives about two miles from the stadium, and he expects the road and lane closures to disrupt his commute. Still, he called the plans “comprehensive, insightful and well-coordinated” and said he’s confident he’ll manage.

Kreher said the police department has pushed back against some of the NFL’s requests for road closures to ensure traffic in the stadium area continues to move – if perhaps more slowly.

“It’s been a negotiation,” he said.

Channel 2 Action News’ Berndt Petersen contributed to this report

Super Bowl 2019 traffic in Atlanta

Atlanta has prepared a plan to manage traffic around Mercedes-Benz Stadium and elsewhere during 10 days of Super Bowl festivities. The plan includes:

  • Lane closures at key times.
  • Limited road closures.
  • Encouraging visitors to make MARTA, taxis or ride-hailing services.

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