Gridlock Guy: Traffic to future Braves stadium still a head-scratcher

The subject of Braves traffic heading to SunTrust Park bubbled up in the news again last week when a plan was released on how Cobb County was going to deal with increased ballpark traffic. Part of the plan was to encourage fans to use streets in Sandy Springs instead of Interstate 285 to get to the state-of-the-art complex.

When that portion of the plan was made public, Sandy Springs residents and elected officials were not very happy. After hearing the plan, Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul called the plan a “nightmare” for his community. After that initial outburst there was radio silence from the mayor and from Cobb officials until they issued a joint statement after having a meeting and promising to work on the problem together.

“We have work to do, but we are committed to collaborating with Cobb County in developing viable solutions that create a win-win scenario for both communities,” Paul said in the statement.

“The whole conversation was about how do we move forward and what do we need to do to work together,” Cobb County Commissioner Tim Lee said.

I’m not really one to comment on the political ins and outs of the situation, but now that Braves traffic at the new park is back in the public eye, many commuters have asked my opinion on what traffic in 2017 will be like heading to the new park.

My honest answer: I don’t know. Until we are 30 home games into to the 2017 baseball season, I don’t think anyone will know.

Realistically I can guess that traffic on Interstate 75 and I-285 will worsen with the new stadium. To what extent though, it is impossible to quantify. I asked Atlanta’s only airborne traffic reporters, Mark McKay and Doug Turnbull to provide some insight.

“On the worst of evenings in Cobb County, sometimes I-75 and I-285 don’t clear out until after what would be the usual 7:10 p.m .or 7:40 p.m. start times to MLB games,” McKay said “That needs to be taken into account by season ticket holders.”

“The location of the stadium so close to the already heavily congested I-75/I-285 interchange as well as Windy Hill, Cobb Parkway and Cumberland Boulevard and other roads will likely create greater gridlock than Turner Field does now,” Turnbull said.

That being said, getting to Turner Field, traffic-wise, has never been a picnic. The exits to the field being so close to the I-75/85 and I—nterstate 20 intersection led to many Braves fans missing many first pitches, me included.

What needs to happen to make traffic better heading to the new park? A combination of the following:

  • fans going to the park early
  • shuttle bus services for fans in Gwinnett and DeKalb counties
  • a lot of people taking Uber, Lyft or taxis to the park (less parking spaces needed)
  • Cobb residents that work in midtown, downtown or the Perimeter area flexing their hours on game days to leave work early.

In my heart I am an optimist both when it comes to traffic and the Braves. I hope that at the end of the day traffic getting to Suntrust Park isn’t that bad and I hope that the Braves go on a historic run of 10 consecutive World Series wins at the new ballpark. But, if I were a betting man, I would say the World Series wins were more realistic.

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