Gridlock Guy: Atlanta is blessed to be busy with road projects

With one of the busiest summers in years, metro Atlanta is seeing 539 active road improvement projects. WSBTV file photo

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With one of the busiest summers in years, metro Atlanta is seeing 539 active road improvement projects. WSBTV file photo

Many of us accept the fact that living in Atlanta, we’re going to be sitting in traffic. Daily. But have you ever considered that we are blessed this summer to be Atlanta commuters?

No, really?

Kudos to a patient city, one that overcame the I-85 bridge collapse and rebuild, to residents who went 47 days driving an altered commute. From that experience, we became more tolerant and more patient.

When you look around as you traverse the interstates this summer, what you see is progress. With many new projects along busy corridors, Atlanta is again enduring short-term pain for long-term gain.

At least that is how I see it!

This summer what Atlanta drivers see are the benefits of $3.9 billion in construction and improvements to the interstates we drive every day. The Georgia Department of Transportation says this is the busiest summer in years, with 539 active road improvement projects.

The most prominent such project — the North West Corridor Express Lanes. I, along with other Bartow, Cherokee, and Cobb County drivers must zig-zag through this every morning! Crews are adding almost 30 miles of toll lanes to I-75 and I-575. These new toll lanes make up about half of the 70 miles of express lanes that will be available to drivers in metro Atlanta by next summer.

Ten of those 70 miles are reserved for Gwinnett County. By summer 2018, Gwinnett gridlock will hopefully be eased along I-85 between Hamilton Mill Road and the existing Peach Pass lanes that now begin at Old Peachtree Road.

Another visible transformation is on the north side of the Perimeter. For folks driving through Sandy Springs, all this Transform 285/400 project looks like is crews just removing a bunch of trees. Given the limited space to work in the crowded metropolis that is Sandy Springs, GDOT Project Manager Albert Welch admits “the job is challenging and it’s exciting that there are a lot of eyes on this.”

He promises that “the design will be much more efficient, with collector-distributor ramps that will take merging traffic out of the main lines of I-285 and Ga-400.”

The $1.1 billion project will look fabulous, with new flyover ramps, new collector-distributor lanes and other facilities to aid travel across the north side of Atlanta.

As a traffic reporter who sees careless crashes each and every day, I often scratch my head watching the dangerous interchange on the east side, where I-285 and I-20 converge in DeKalb County. In recent years, there have been more than 10 truck rollovers or sideswipes in just the span of a year and a half on these ramps. GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry says this interchange reconstruction will begin soon and will reduce delay for east side drivers by 30% upon completion!

The next time, maybe today, that you’re stuck in traffic staring down the brake lights in front of you, take a deep breath and consider yourself blessed to be in Atlanta! Better commutes are ahead!

Doug Turnbull is on vacation. Ashley Frasca, a traffic reporter and producer during Atlanta’s Morning News on News 95.5 & AM 750 WSB, is filling in. Ashley also fills in for traffic on Channel 2 Action News This Morning. Contact her at ashley.frasca@coxinc.com