Atlanta’s biggest college football game in decades, a presidential visit and a dose of winter weather could create a major traffic headache downtown Monday.
Tens of thousands of fans will descend on Mercedes-Benz Stadium for college football’s national championship game between Georgia and Alabama. President Donald Trump plans to attend the game, and presidential motorcades have a history of snarling Atlanta traffic.
Throw in sleet or freezing rain forecast for early Monday, and you've got the makings of a classic Atlanta traffic disaster.
Fear not, says the Georgia Department of Transportation.
"Our limits are being tested," said GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale. "We're absolutely ready to rise to the challenge."
Here’s what you need to know about getting to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the big game.
Channel 2 Action News' forecast calls for cold temperatures, sleet and freezing rain for early Monday. Dale said GDOT will begin applying brine to roads on Sunday in anticipation of the inclement weather. She said the agency also will be changing the timing of lights in the stadium area as traffic picks up.
Dale urged people employed downtown to work from home, if they're able.
The Atlanta Police Department says it has a security plan to handle the big game. Though it won't disclose details, it has pledged "a pronounced police presence.”
Among other things, police will be directing traffic - and there will be plenty of it.
“We strongly encourage mass transit,” Atlanta Police Department spokesman Carlos Campos said. “If people must drive, we urge them to be patient as we do expect heavy traffic and congestion around the venues. Officers will be directing traffic, but sheer volume will inevitably lead to congestion.”
Driving and parking
There are more than 20,000 parking spaces within a 20-minute walk of the stadium. But officials say the best bet is for fans to buy parking in advance at the stadium website to guarantee a spot. Fans should also use the Waze traffic app to guide them to their parking spot. Waze will have access to event-day traffic plans and street closures.
The Georgia Department of Transportation plans to restrict most construction in the area from Monday through 5 a.m. Tuesday. State Traffic Engineer Andrew Heath said traffic will be challenging because most fans of both teams live within driving distance of Atlanta.
City of Atlanta offices will close at 2:30 p.m. Monday because of the expected traffic mess, while Fulton County and state offices will close at 3 p.m.
MARTA rail service has two stops near Mercedes-Benz Stadium: the Vine City Station and the GWCC/Phillips Arena/CNN Center Station. The stations are served by MARTA’s blue and green lines.
MARTA will offer more frequent service from 5 a.m. Monday through 2 a.m. Tuesday. Additional trains will be added as needed.
In addition, rail service will operate on a weekday schedule Sunday, with trains arriving more frequently.
MARTA advises passengers to buy a round-trip ticket at the beginning of their trip to avoid long lines on the return trip. The last trains of the evening will depart at 2 a.m. Tuesday. MARTA will clear all stations before the last run to ensure no one is stranded.
For more information, visit www.itsmarta.com.
Other ways to get there
Mercedes-Benz Stadium has partnered with the ride-hailing service Lyft to provide pickup and drop-off locations nearby. The largest Lyft zone is at Martin Luther King Drive off Northside Drive and is accessible from the stadium’s Gate 1. A second zone is at the corner of Centennial Olympic Park Drive and Andrew Young International Boulevard, and can be accessed from Gates 2, 3 or 4.
For more information, visit mercedesbenzstadium.com.
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