A review of the news that made The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s front pages through the decades.

Today’s AJC Deja News comes to you from the Friday, September 18, 1964, edition of The Atlanta Constitution. 

Atlanta’s love-hate relationship with the Downtown Connector is going on 55 years. If you enjoy a rush-hour tour through downtown Atlanta at speeds of 2 mph, you love the Connector. If not, you hate it.

But we knew it was coming. The Atlanta Traffic and Safety Council told us so.

VIDEO: More on the Connector

Learn more about the 7.4-mile stretch of interstate that Atlanta loves -- to hate.
Video: Mandi Albright/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

As the city prepared to open the “long-awaited Expressway link” of the Connector to traffic, there were already concerns about the nascent interstate corridor.

“The council said ‘the complexity and design of the connector will make it one of the most difficult driving areas in the nation,’” the Constitution’s Ted Simmons wrote in his September 1964 preview of the roadway’s official opening.

The Downtown Connector unofficially "opened" a day early in Sept. 1964 when a truck carrying bales of cotton overturned.

Part of the reason Atlanta’s Connector was already giving the local Traffic and Safety Council headaches is that it was “one of the few [highway stretches] where three interstate routes cross.” Modern metro commuters know this as the interchange just south of downtown, where I-20 crosses over Interstates 75 and 85 (the Connector).

This 2.3-mile “Expressway link” stretch of the Connector -- then touted as the largest east of the Mississippi -- cost $32 million. In 2019 dollars, that comes to $264.8 million.

Adding 16 miles of express toll lanes to Georgia 400 in north Fulton County is projected to be a $1.6 billion project.

MORE DEJA NEWS>> Check out what we’ve covered before (and again)

Those who helped break in the Connector all those years ago could count on plenty of help; Atlanta Police had “all available equipment” working.

“J.L. Moseley, superintendent of the department’s traffic division, said that 20 motorcycles, a helicopter, two trucks, two wreckers and a number of cars [would] be assigned to expressways in the area,” the Constitution reported.

Traffic congestion on the Downtown Connector, looking southeast towards the construction of the Equitable Building between 1967 and 1968.
Photo: J.C. Lee/AJC

Officials fretted that drivers would be confused by the “huge and complex series of interchanges.” The Atlanta Police traffic division told the Constitution it would “put special emphasis on aiding drivers in the area of the Connector ‘for two or three weeks.’”

In 1964, interstates were new to the Atlanta area. Now metro drivers negotiate the massive Brookwood Interchange on the Connector’s north end and handle Spaghetti Junction farther up I-85.

The I-85 bridge collapse of March 2017 forced drivers to alter their commutes and metro Atlantans proved up to the task. And they didn’t have a long wait before going right back to their old routines. I-85 was reopened a mere six weeks later.

MORE PHOTOS>> Weird things that have snarled Atlanta traffic

Perhaps the Connector’s inauspicious unofficial opening was a sign for the future.

A truck overturned, blocking the thing.

“One section was opened ahead of schedule when a tractor-trailer loaded with cotton overturned on the Piedmont Avenue entrance ramp to the North Expressway. About fifty 500-pound bales of cotton blocked the main northbound ramp for more than two hours while two wreckers righted the tractor-trailer, and clean-up crews cleared away the cotton.”


In this series, we scour the AJC archives for the most interesting news from days gone by, show you the original front page and update the story.

If you have a story you’d like researched and featured in AJC Deja News, send an email with as much information as you know. Email: malbright@ajc.com. Use the subject line “AJC Deja News.”

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