Today’s AJC Deja News comes to you from the Wednesday, October 15, 1969, edition of The Atlanta Constitution. 

There's another I-285 out there, Atlanta, and it's nothing like ours.

There it is, y'all: Proof that another I-285 exists nowhere near the metro Atlanta area. North Carolina's I-285 connects Lexington with Winston-Salem. BRENT IVY / AAROADS.COM


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It lives in North Carolina and has a cute name – the Winston-Salem Connector. Down here, we just call I-285 what it is: the Perimeter. Atlanta’s Perimeter is 50 years old. North Carolina’s Connector? It’s a mere baby about to celebrate its first birthday this November.

“This new interstate is great news for the Triad region and all of North Carolina,” Governor Roy Cooper said in 2018. “Interstates serve as a catalyst for economic growth and make it easier for people and goods to get where they need to go.”

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

It's been 50 years since the complete I-285 circuit opened in October 1969. But the Perimeter hasn't quite lived up to the lofty vision of state officials. AJC PRINT ARCHIVES


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Gov. Cooper’s enthusiasm for his state’s new highway echoes Georgia officials’ praise for I-285 leading up to the official opening of the road encircling Atlanta on October 15, 1969. They believed the Perimeter would cure everything ailing Atlanta traffic. Gov. Lester Maddox even rode the hood of a Mercury Marquis to mark the monumental event.

“Officials are predicting all kinds of glorious things will happen with the opening of I-285,” the Constitution’s Gene Stephens wrote of the event, “including an immediate demise of truck traffic through the downtown interstate connector.”

Georgia State Revenue Commissioner Peyton Hawes saw I-285 as “a time-saving boon to our trucking industry.”

“By ridding our downtown freeways of unnecessary truck traffic, we should help ease highway congestion for the automobile driver immediately,” Hawes told the AJC.

When opened, the Perimeter was a welcome alternative to city through-traffic. Now it's as crowded, dangerous and deadly as any of Atlanta's interstates. In fact, it's held the ignominious title of America's deadliest highway. In 2013, I-285 had more fatal accidents per mile than any other interstate for the year.

Georgia Department of Transportation statistics show that more than 20,000 trucks a day travel parts of I-285. And when they have an accident, metro Atlanta drivers pay the price in lost time in traffic. Now, the state pays for express cleanup, too.

"GDOT has been paying private wrecking companies in metro Atlanta a bonus of up to $3,500 to clear truck accidents in 90 minutes or less," the AJC's David Wickert reports. "The Towing, Recovery and Incentive Program (TRIP) has proven so successful the agency may take it statewide.

“Last year, GDOT used the TRIP program to clear truck accidents in metro Atlanta 258 times. In August of this year, it used the program 25 times – or nearly once a day, on average,” Wickert writes.

MORE PHOTOS>> Weird things that have snarled Atlanta traffic

So how can this be, this double-dose of I-285s? Isn’t one plenty for the Southeast?

"As part of the original numbering setup of the Interstate System in 1956," Brent Ivy of explains, "beltways and connecting interstate highways occurring along a primary interstate (say, I-85) in different states can have the same number.

In the early '80s, Braves pitcher Pascual Perez wore a team jacket with "I-285" stitched on the back after driving the Perimeter three times and missing a scheduled start. BEVERLY CRAWFORD / AJC PHOTO ARCHIVES

Credit: Beverly Crawford

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Credit: Beverly Crawford

But no matter how many I-285s pop up elsewhere, Atlanta’s Perimeter has cemented its status as an iconic roadway, for better or worse.

When $175,000 flew out the doors of an armored truck back in July, I-285 drivers risked life, limb and arrest to engage in a cash grab that made national headlines. Few who took advantage of the 'Perimeter Payoff' returned any money to police. The total returned currently stands at a meager $6,201.

The late Braves pitcher Pascual Perez made I-285 a fashion statement in August 1982 when the interstate's moniker showed up on his warm-up jacket after Perez drove the full circumference of the Perimeter (62.9 miles) three times, looking for Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

He missed his start.

NOTE: Thanks to astute readers John Champion and Sam Shepherd for pointing out that Gov. Maddox was riding a Mercury Marquis, not a Cadillac, as originally written.


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