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Georgia opens I-16 to eastbound traffic

4:10 p.m. update: The Georgia Department of Transportation has reopened I-16 to eastbound traffic.

Meanwhile, traffic on Georgia interstate highways for the most part is moving smoothly. There are still slowdowns on northbound I-75 between Macon and Atlanta. And there is some stop-and-go traffic on the Perimeter and on the Downtown Connector – but when is there not?

GDOT says traffic on I-75 between the Florida line and Macon is twice the normal volume, but traffic speeds are generally above 50 m.p.h.

1:45 p.m. update: With Hurricane Irma seemingly headed west and with light traffic heading away from the coast, Georgia will reverse course on reversing the direction of I-16.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed an executive order this afternoon allow eastbound traffic to resume on I-16 beginning at 4 p.m.

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The move comes after the department reversed the eastbound lanes early Saturday morning to aid traffic flow expected from thousands of people fleeing the coast ahead of the hurricane. But forecasts now show Irma is likely bound for central and western Georgia. And traffic on most of I-16 has been light all day.

11:50 a.m. update: Traffic remains light on most Georgia’s interstate highways – an indication that the rush of evacuations ahead of Hurricane Irma may have slowed.

The Georgia Department of Transportation reversed the eastbound lanes on I-16 this morning to accommodate motorists leaving the coast. But for the most part heavy traffic has not materialized, as it did on Thursday and Friday, when thousands of motorists – many from Florida – clogged I-75 and other interstates.

Traffic remains heavy on I-75 between Macon and Atlanta and in a few spots on I-95 and I-16.

9:51 a.m. update: Northbound traffic on I-75 between Macon and Atlanta is beginning to slow down.

Average speeds just north of Macon are below 30 m.p.h., according to GDOT. There are isolated slowdowns on I-75 north of Cordele and north of Unadilla. Traffic also is slow on I-16 near Dublin and on northbound I-95 north and south of Savannah.

Otherwise, traffic remains light on interstates across the Peach State.

To aid northbound traffic coming into Atlanta, GDOT has kept the I-75 South Metro Express Lanes open northbound. The 12 miles of reversible lanes usually open for southbound traffic to carry motorists out of the city in the afternoon. The lanes also are free for now, and motorists will not be required to have a Peach Pass or Florida SunPass to use them.

The agency also has suspended construction-related lane closures on interstates and secondary highways south of I-20.

MORE: Latest Hurricane Irma news and updates

MORE: Hurricane Irma path and resources 

The impacted areas are between Savannah and Dublin.

8:51 a.m. update: It’s taken a while, but a few braves souls have begun using the eastbound lanes to travel westbound on I-16. 

A traffic camera on I-16 near Statesboro shows a handful of motorists are using them after GDOT reversed flow on the lanes shortly before 8 a.m. 

Traffic remains light on interstates across Georgia this morning, with some backups on I-75 around Macon and on I-16 near Dublin. But State Traffic Engineer Andrew Heath said motorists should expect delays later today as thousands of people continue to evacuate from the coasts of Georgia and Florida.

GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale said the agency will continue to monitor traffic on I-16 throughout the day.

“If you are in the governor’s coastal evacuation zone, we suggest getting on the road earlier instead of later, as traffic conditions are currently favorable for traffic on I-16,” Dale said.

FORECAST: Irma now aimed at Naples, Tampa and, later, Atlanta

Original post: The Georgia Department of Transportation this morning converted I-16’s eastbound lanes to westbound lanes to encourage evacuation from the coast.

Though Hurricane Irma’s projected path across Georgia has shifted to the west, GDOT spokeswoman Natale Dale said coastal counties are still under a mandatory evacuation order, and reversing the I-16 lanes will help tens of thousands of people who must leave. It also will help Floridians heading north on I-95.

“We’re still monitoring a very erratic, shifting (storm) pattern,” Dale said. “Irma is one of the most unpredictable storms we’ve watched.”

Traffic on I-75 in most of Georgia was moving well early Saturday, with some backups around Macon. Hundreds of thousands of people from Georgia and Florida are under mandatory orders to evacuate, and they clogged the highway at times Friday.

Chances for more congestion today are good.

“We’ve still got the entire state of Florida coming up here,” Dale said.

MORE: On Georgia’s coast, Hurricane Matthew’s specter haunts Irma evacuees 

MORE: Trump declares state of emergency in Georgia ahead of Irma landfall

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