Gridlock Guy: Eliminating lane ‘cutters’ would help traffic in worst snarl

I received an email from a reader a couple of weeks ago that really got me thinking. The gentleman asked me, if there was one small project I could approve to help traffic conditions in Atlanta, what would it be? The key to the question was “one small project.” Not a huge overhaul, not a massive new freeway being built, just one small “tweak” that would improve traffic flow. After much thought, I came up with an idea.

My idea is simply this. Try and fix the single worst lane of traffic in Atlanta. The one lane of traffic that causes the most backups, delays and crashes. That lane is the third right lane on Interstate 75/85 southbound before Interstate 20.

In my opinion, it is the worst lane in Atlanta. Here’s why:

The two right lanes of I-75/85 southbound start to back up as folks try to ramp onto I-20. Many, many, many drivers who want to get on I-20 and avoid the delays in the two right lanes, use that third right to get as close to the I-20 exits as possible and then sneak into the exit lanes. As a result, you will regularly see a handful of motorists stuck in that third right lane of I-75/85/sb before I-20 trying to force their way into the exit lanes. When these drivers get stuck in that third right lane, people that want to continue driving south on I-75/85 get stuck. Or worse, they are forced to try and move left into another lane, which inevitably causes delays in that lane. Once that lane starts slowing, drivers there then try to move to the next left lane, causing delays there. Not to mention the amount of crashes produced in the third right lane as motorists going 55 mph are forced to slam on their brakes because someone is stopped in their lane. The end result? Daily, bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-75/85 southbound heading from 10th Street to the I-20 exits.

So, how would I fix this problem? Concrete and lots of it. I would consult with traffic engineers and figure out where we could build a wall separating the two right lanes of I-75/85 southbound from the rest of the travel lanes. This wall would be constructed so that if you wish to exit off of the connector onto I-20, you need to get in those lanes. I would build a long concrete wall all the way to the I-20 exits. That way, the people who regularly use the third right lane to try and cut over to the I-20 exits would be unable to. By restricting the access to the I-20 ramps, the through lanes of I-75/85 southbound would remain unencumbered. Without the constant stopping in the third right lane caused by “cutters” the travel lanes of I-75/85 would move much smoother.

While we would still see delays in the right lanes trying to exit off onto I-20 east and westbound, I believe those lanes would move smoother as well, since drivers already in that lane would no longer have to stop to let other drivers in.