Undoubtedly one of the busiest and most iconic stretches of road within the Atlanta city limits is Peachtree. In Midtown and Downtown Atlanta it’s “Peachtree Street”. Head up to the Brookwood Amtrak station — a place that some (including me) have attempted to call “Uptown” — and this famous artery changes to “Peachtree Road.” One could call it “Calorie Row,” as the crowded corridor between Deering Road and Collier Road is chock full of area favorites. But for a 10-day stretch, patrons seeking their Egg Harbor, Sufi’s, R. Thomas, Ted’s, Uncle Julio’s, and Bell St. Burritos fixes found themselves ensnared in a big-time bottleneck. And it’s happened twice this summer.
The City of Atlanta had to pare down Peachtree/southbound to just one left lane between Collier Road and 26th Street. The news release the city sent out Thursday, Aug. 23, came three days after the major closure began. The highly inconvenient and unannounced double-right lane interruption started during the day on Monday the 20th and appeared to the WSB Traffic Team and me that it would only last until the afternoon drive started. Hardly.
“At first, only a right lane was blocked,” Triple Team Traffic’s midday co-anchor Veronica Harrell explained. “But the next day only a left lane and sometimes only the turn lane was open. Needless to say, during lunchtime, traffic would back up well before Peachtree Battle causing a major jam for people traveling from Buckhead in to Midtown.”
I noticed these delays every afternoon from my perch in the WSB Skycopter. And Northside Drive would stack up, as it is the nearest north-south major artery. Using the Triple Team Traffic Alerts App, we advised motorists to also consider using Piedmont Road through Buckhead, as it was moving better than Northside.
Regardless of the warnings we gave on our app and on News 95.5/AM750 WSB constantly, traffic would stack up to the tune of sometimes more than 45 minute delays.
The city stated in the aforementioned news release that they had to replace the sewer line. Incidentally, Atlanta’s infamous sewer system caused a closure of similar proportions in almost the exact same spot earlier this summer.
The Friday, June 22, Peachtree/southbound sewer closure at 26th Street came with far more fanfare. GDOT officials reached out to WSB Traffic as soon as they learned of the closure and stayed in touch that day as details unfolded. The city said it felt that the road would open in a couple of days. But much like the more recent closure, the June/July version stayed out for 10 days and caused similar gridlock. The city also estimated both projects would be complete days before the work actually finished.
These extended closures on a busy artery spur a few questions. First, why did the repairs take so long? For a street as busy as Peachtree, the crews could have worked longer daily and maybe even around the clock. That worked for the I-85 bridge collapse. That would have cost more money, but a hurried work pace also could have saved literally thousands of hours of productivity for Atlantans.
Another question: Why is the sewer going amiss in the same area twice in such a short stretch? I reached out to the City of Atlanta for an explanation and heard nothing back by the deadline for this piece. Is the recent sewer line replacement that just finished the next phase of the emergency closure from late June? Or are the problems unrelated? Is there a recurring problem that is causing these issues and, thus, the major gridlock.
Finally, why was the communication of the Peachtree closure so different between the June and August episodes? The blockage in June brought a full court press from GDOT to spread the word and local media covered it extensively. The delays were noticeably less two months ago. The city and the state made a coordinated effort to alert motorists.
The recent closure was anything but coordinated. As Harrell said earlier, we discovered the delays and then found the closure; we had no warning. In fact, GDOT did not have the closure in their system until a day or two later. The City of Atlanta drafted its news release three days later. With less media coverage about this Peachtree boondoggle, the jams were definitely worse.
With many questions unanswered about this particular episode of Atlanta traffic damnation, something has become apparent: Atlanta seems resigned to these occurrences. But that is aiming low. We should accept that rush hour is always going to be bad, but we should not settle for uncoordinated and possibly excessive closures like what recently took place on Peachtree. While we shouldn’t stress over the inevitable, we also shouldn’t allow our officials to get away unscathed from unforced errors. Atlanta, we can do better than that.
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