Gridlock Guy: Traffic now through summer is test of nerves, strategy

Now that all of metro Atlanta is back to school from pre-schools to colleges I’m reminded of study “techniques” some of my classmates used. Instead of actually studying for an exam they would spend all of their time making intricate cheat sheets that they would sneak into class for the test. I never saw the logic in this. While the upside of using a cheat sheet was a good grade on the test, the downside of getting caught, failing the test and facing punishment was way too risky for my liking.

Now as an adults, we can all use cheat sheets freely without worry or consequence. That is what this column is, a cheat sheet for Atlanta traffic. Cut this out, or print this out if you are reading it online, and put it in your glove compartment. It is a morning drive Atlanta cheat sheet for the horrible, post Labor Day delays we will experience until school breaks for summer.

These “cheats” assume no wet weather and no major incidents on the freeways.

4:30 to 5 a.m. There is generally still construction on the interstates. Most projects wrap up by 5 a.m., but others can linger and cause delays.

5 to 5:30 a.m. Here come the crowds. More folks are on the roads now and unfortunately this is when we start to see our first crashes of the morning.

5:30 to 6 a.m. Volume increases and so do the crashes. It is not out of the ordinary to have a number of trouble spots on multiple interstates and major surface streets.

6 a.m. We start to see our first interstate slow zones, starting on Interstat 575 in Woodstock and Interstat 20 near Panola Road in DeKalb County. Traffic is already thick on all of the freeways.

6:15 a.m. Waves of volume have developed on Interstate 85 in Gwinnett County and Interstate 75 in Cobb County and I-20 in Fulton County. You'll tap your brakes more than once.

6:30 a.m. The crunch has begun. I-75 starts to slow in Clayton County. I-20 is already jammed up in DeKalb County. Georgia 400 starts to slow in from Alpharetta and Roswell. Highway 316 is jammed in from Lawrenceville.

6:45 a.m. The Downtown Connector (I-75/85) is slow from University Avenue to I-20. Interstate 285 (outer loop) in DeKalb County is slow north of I-20 to LaVista Road.

7 a.m. Full blown rush hour is under way. Delays stretch metro-wide. Trip times climb quickly. Expect at least a half-dozen active crashes or stalls on the roads.

7:30 a.m. Probably the worst time to start your commute. There are now bumper-to-bumper delays on I-575, I-75, I-85 and GA 400 in from the norther suburbs. I-285 is jammed on the east side of town and getting slower on the west side. The sun, if out starts to become a factor. I-20 is packed on both sides of town. The Downtown Connector is a mess heading north.

8 a.m. Hopefully things have begun to thin out a bit on I-75 in Clayton County, everywhere else is still rough.

8:30 to 9 a.m. Traffic is most likely still very bad on all the interstates, but things are usually improving on I-20 on the west side and on I-575 in Cherokee County.

9 to 10 a.m. Trip times start to fall, but there are still plenty of aggravating spots all over the metro area. After 10 a.m. beware of construction setting up in various spots.

Best of luck on the traffic test. I hope the cheat sheet helped.