Mark Arum: Gridlock Guy

When it comes to traffic issues I pride myself in being able to predict how changes will effect your commute. For example, I knew what the impact the 17th Street Bridge would have on traffic. Love it or hate it, I knew what the new HOT lanes would do to traffic on I-85. I know traffic and I have a pretty good track record of knowing in advance what your drive to work is going to look like.

That's why I find it so troubling as I sit here writing this column, that I have no clue what is going to happen this morning on Ga. 400. In case you haven't heard, the state is trying something new starting at 6:30 a.m. today. They have transformed the former "break-down" lane into a full fledged travel lane on Ga. 400 between Holcomb Bridge and the North Springs Marta Station. The "new" lane will be available to drivers between 6:30-9:30 a.m., Monday through Friday.

I think in the long run, the lane will become a popular option for commuters and I think the success of the lane might lead to this idea spreading to other major roads. But, that's long term. This morning? I have no idea what's going to happen.

Will drivers flock to the new lane? Will the excitement of being able to drive somewhere that before now was off-limits be a siren's song to drivers? Or, will the thought of driving in a "lesser" lane keep wary commuters in the lanes that they already know?

Commuters, though, shouldn't worry about the lane being any less safe than the regular travel lanes.

"The shoulders had been reinforced before, during a previous project, so they are prepared for vehicles to drive on them. In fact, buses drive on them today," Jill Goldberg of the DOT said last week.

Will this new lane help traffic? I think yes, it definitely will. During the morning rush hour, usually the worst stretch of traffic on Ga. 400 southbound is found between Haynes Bridge Road and the North Springs Marta Station. What this new lane hopefully will become, is a super long exit lane to the Marta station. I think commuters that usually exit off to the Marta station will make their way over to the new lane, thus reducing traffic on the regular lanes. In theory, over time, it should make things lighter through North Fulton County.

The biggest concern that I've heard from GA 400 commuters about the new lane is the perceived lack of space for authorities to clear crashes and stalls out of the way. To help prevent additional backups caused by these problems, the DOT has set up seven new pull-off areas for HERO drivers, police and rescue units to move disabled and crashed cars off of the roadway.

But, how will it work this morning? Honestly, I have no idea, but I'm really anxious to find out.

If I was commuting in from Roswell or Alpharetta this morning, I don't think I'd be one of the first people to drive in the lane. I would probably wait a day or two before I ventured out into the new lane, but eventually, I'd move all the way to the right and check it out.