Have you ever had one of those days? That’s rhetorical, because everyone has. Nothing seems to go right and the problems happen in succession. Then those trials cause more issues. Before you know it, you’re saddled with an inconceivable and seemingly insurmountable entanglement of logistical (and probably emotional) baggage. Come sit on your therapist’s couch next to I-85 in Gwinnett County … or, better, a motorist stuck on it this week.
Tuesday morning saw I-85/northbound near Hamilton Mill (exit 120) practically shut down by a crash involving two big rigs. My Triple Team Traffic cohort Smilin’ Mark McKay saw the jam from the WSB Skycopter.
“Debris from the crash was strewn all over the roadway with only the right shoulder getting by during the most of the clean up operation that extended into the heart of morning drive.” And the backup wasn’t just on I-85. “Surface streets north of the Mall of Georgia turned into a mess.”
My Skycopter duty Tuesday afternoon involved far too much I-85 coverage. There were two different wrecks before and after Hamilton Mill (yes, the same spot as the morning drive’s debacle) that made the already-rough drive from Duluth even worse. Then on the way back from those two crashes, we found trouble blocking lanes I-85/northbound at Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road (exit 111), Steve Reynolds Boulevard (exit 103), and Shallowford Road (exit 93) in DeKalb. Buford Highway did not serve its proper duty as an alternate, because a gas leak blocked its northbound lanes at Holcomb Bridge Road from roughly 3 to 5 p.m.
McKay also presided over a putrid Wednesday AM commute. The ongoing overnight paving work on I-85 in north Gwinnett lasted far too long into morning drive on the southbound side, causing the WSB Traffic Team to issue a GRIDLOCK ALERT on the Triple Team Traffic Alerts App. GDOT spokesperson Natalie Dale explained the cause.
“There’s something called a tack machine that got ahead of the paving crew and went too far.” This meant the pavement wasn’t dry by the time AM drive got underway — and they will have to pony up some fines. “The contractor absolutely admits that they were at fault and will have to pay liquidated damages for the time they stayed in the road past their contracted work hours.”
McKay traced those backups all the way to Highway 211 (exit 126) and Ashley Frasca in our Traffic Center spoke to a caller stuck over an hour and a half in the jam. As traffic channeled off of I-85, it moved to I-985/southbound as an alternate. Then that went to the hounds when a crash took out lanes for a while below Highway 20 (exit 4). But that wasn’t all.
“We came upon a violent crash on I-85/northbound north of Pleasant Hill Road just after 6:30 a.m.,” McKay said. It left only an H.O.T. lane open for a couple of hours.
“Based on the rapid and overwhelming response by Gwinnett Fire & Rescue, I knew it was bad. As firefighters and paramedics frantically worked on the back seat passenger down below, we watched from the WSB Skycopter as a first responder placed a white sheet over the damaged vehicle, signifying a fatality.”
The investigation lasted into the 9 a.m. hour and jammed the ride back to Jimmy Carter Boulevard (exit 99).
McKay said these bad crashes are a reminder to always be alert behind the wheel, especially on those dark, drowsy morning commutes. “It’s always sobering seeing such an accident scene and a reminder that life is precious and the responsibility of driving a motor vehicle of any type should be taken seriously.”
Bad traffic is not a new story on the Atlanta roads, but seeing so many outlier, unusual problems in the same place is both serendipitous and unsettling. Sometimes this stuff just happens and sometimes recurring conditions cause the problems. Either way, I-85 commuters, this wasn’t your week. Drive carefully and better luck next time.
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