Traffic is thick on I-85 Monday morning. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

I-85 bridge collapse: Accident snarls afternoon commute for some motorists

4:15 p.m Update: It’s official: Traffic increased substantially on metro Atlanta highways on the first day back from spring break -  but congestion was typical for a weekday despite the collapse of the I-85 bridge.

This afternoon GDOT released an analysis of metro traffic from 5 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. It found traffic on I-85 between Ga. 316 and I-285 increased 18 percent over the previous Monday - the most significant change in the region. But travel times were approximately the same in most locations, which GDOT said likely means commuters chose flexible hours, worked from home or sought alternative ways to get to work.

The analysis also confirmed congested started much earlier than usual - indicating commuters got going early to give themselves more time.

Meanwhile, the afternoon commute is well under way, with plenty of congestion on the Perimeter and other major highways. An accident on westbound I-285 at Riverdale Road south of Atlanta has blocked the two left lanes.

8:15 update: The combination of an early rush and an unusual lack of accidents helped Atlanta avert the kind of abysmal morning commute many expected in the wake of the I-85 bridge collapse.

Delays are building on the Buford-Spring Connector near the I-85 collapse. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

On the first Monday after spring break, Atlantans took transportation officials’ advice and hit the road early. Traffic started picking up around 5 a.m. - an hour earlier than usual. As a result, by 8 a.m. traffic was already beginning to thin on metro Atlanta interstate highways.

State Traffic Engineer Andrew Heath described Monday as a typical weekday commute. That doesn’t make it a good one - just not the catastrophe some had feared.

“We haven’t seen the tremendous problems we were anticipating,” Heath said.

Traffic on some local roads near the collapsed bridge - like Cheshire Bridge Road - was unusually heavy, as was expected.

Monday morning’s commute was aided by a lack of major accidents - a bit of luck that may not hold this afternoon, let alone the rest of the week.

“This is going to change every morning,” said GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale. “It’s going to depend on accident and how many people work at home.”

6:53 a.m. update: Metro Atlanta highways are seeing some typical weekday backups - but not the colossal traffic jams that could have resulted from the closing of one of the main gateways into the city.

One reason: There have been no major accidents on the region’s highways - so far.

Georgia Department of Transportation Spokeswoman Natalie Dale said traffic on some highways - like I-285 - is up substantially because I-85 is closed. But in many places it’s still moving at 41 mph.

That could change at any time - Dale said even a minor fender bender can have a big impact on traffic. Though it sounds obvious, Dale said driving alert and being courteous can go a long way toward making today’s commute bearable for everyone.

Related: I-85 bridge collapse: How to cope with your Atlanta commute

Related: MARTA launches real-time parking tracker for commuters after I-85 bridge collapse

Delays are building on the Buford-Spring Connector near the I-85 collapse. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

6:04 a.m. Update: Rush hour is arriving early in Atlanta, and that’s a good thing.

GDOT reports that local routes like Peachtree Road are filling up an hour earlier than they usually would on a weekday morning. State Traffic Engineer Andrew Heath said that’s a sign people are heeding the state’s advice to leave early and give themselves plenty of time to get where they’re going.

Traffic is starting to back up in some areas - for example, on the east side Perimeter at I-20 and U.S. 78. Otherwise, traffic on metro Atlanta highways is still moving smoothly.

Original story: This morning’s commute poses the biggest challenge to Atlanta commuters since the I-85 bridge collapsed on March 30. So far, the commute is a breeze.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is monitoring morning rush hour at its Transportation Management Center in Atlanta. As of 5:30 a.m., traffic is moving smoothly across the metro region, though some local roads - like Cheshire Bridge Road - were starting to back up.

“As of right now, we’re pleased there are no major issues to report,” said State Traffic Engineer Andrew Heath.

Traffic was lighter than usual last week because of spring break. But with everyone back to work and school, GDOT expects traffic to increase as much as 20 percent beginning today.

There are plenty of options for making your commute a little easier. But traffic will be unusually challenging until the I-85 bridge is rebuilt in June.

Check back for updates.

For Gwinnett commuters MARTA may be the quickest way to travel to downtown Atlanta.

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