Rush hour traffic in downtown Atlanta. WSB Radio file photo

Gridlock Guy: Atlanta traffic among worst in world

Plenty is going on in the world of Atlanta traffic, so much, in fact, that tackling it all once a week in this space is a tough task. So this week, we will take quick looks at three items that came across my desk this week.

My grandmother, Paula, is an avid reader of this column. And she has been since Mark Arum started writing it in 2010. When I started writing it this year, she wanted me to get answers about a road near her house in Marietta. So I dispatched Dan Conn, Director of Public Works for the City of Marietta to find out about Polk Street.

My grandmother’s concern is the hill on Polk Street just west of her residence on Hope Street. When making a left turn from Hope onto Polk, that rise in the road keeps on coming traffic from seeing the left-turners. She says one solution to this is making Polk Street run one direction and the parallel Stewart Avenue the other way.

I posed this solution to Conn and he says the city has explored it before.

“We actually looked into making Polk and Stewart one way about 15 years ago and the neighborhood was soundly against it.”

So Conn says there are no plans to make them one way. My grandmother also inquired about some flashing yellow lights at Polk and Hope to encourage people to slow down. Conn says there are flashing lights at Polk and Cleburne Avenue (at Marietta Middle School just east of there) and no plans to add anymore on Polk and Hope. But he does say there is signage on Polk Street in both directions approaching Hope Street, encouraging drivers to slow to 30 mph. And yes, we did confirm that on Google Maps.

Side note: If you have any pressing traffic questions you want answered, send me an email and we will certainly try.

An INRIX study shows Atlanta’s traffic is the eighth-worst in the world. I’ll admit that even I’m surprised that it measures this badly. The study’s metric is the amount of hours the average commuter spends in traffic each year. Atlantans spend 70.8 hours per year, the numbers say, which puts Atlanta one spot better than Paris and one spot worse than London. Los Angeles commuters scored the worst with 104.1.

One likely reason Atlanta’s numbers are so high is because people live so far away from the city center. If the commutes are longer distances and if urban sprawl keeps extending, then undoubtedly Atlanta will always spend a long time in traffic. But I reason to bet that most people spend well more than 70.8 hours in Atlanta traffic per year.

Whether Atlanta is first, eighth, 50th or 100th, the placement on the list doesn’t matter. Our commutes are getting worse and we need to take steps toward public transit, teleworking, carpooling and flex hours to make it better.

The Buckhead Community Improvement District wants to build a park over GA-400 near Lenox Road. The idea is to create a multi-use space for concerts, restaurants, and running paths that would cross the interstate between the Atlanta Financial Center (which also crosses GA-400 already) and the Buckhead Loop/Lenox Road interchange. The proposed $200 million dollar project would also connect with the Buckhead MARTA Station, furthering the idea of the live-work-play model that many developers and community leaders are deploying.

I support this, but have two concerns. First, how badly will the construction of this project affect traffic on GA-400 and on the surrounding Buckhead roads? Gridlock is the cost of progress, but the area can only take so much and GA-400 has gotten worse each year, since the Toll Plaza came down in 2013. Second, GDOT needs to make sure and have traffic cameras under that bridge, just as they do at the airport runway tunnel. The more interstates get covered, the less we can see from the WSB Skycopter!

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Doug Turnbull, the PM drive airborne anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at doug.turnbull@coxinc.com

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