Commuters find crowded roads, trains on first day after spring break

Channel 2's Tom Regan reports.

ATLANTA — Late Monday afternoon, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed sign an executive order suspending all non-emergency road construction be suspended while work continues to repair Interstate 85.

“Temporarily suspending construction activities during reconstruction of Interstate 85 makes sense and is the right decision to help ease traffic congestion,” Reed said. “While our partners at GDOT do the essential work of rebuilding the I-85 bridge, we are taking multiple measures to ensure people can make it to work or school on time, and can enjoy their time in our city.”

[TRAFFIC: Real-time traffic information to help you get around the collapse ]

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Despite warnings, many drivers were able to navigate both the interstate and side streets around the bridge collapse.

Channel 2’s Steve Gelhbach hit the road early Monday morning, and he said drivers seemed to be on their best behavior on day one of the real test of the morning commute.

Traffic on I-85 southbound started backing up around the Druid Hills exit before 6 a.m. and stayed jammed till after 9 a.m., bottlenecking where five lanes of traffic become one to get onto the Buford-Spring Connector past the hole in 85.

But it seemed commuters left early, left plenty of time and got where they were going fairly easily.

"Not for a half mile anyway. Wasn't bad," Driver Dale Rutledge said, who was traveling through the streets of Buckhead.

Others from further out had to plan ahead. Donna Anderson, from Gwinnett County, drives in three times a week to volunteer at the Red Cross.

"Coming down 85 wasn't too bad, but got off at Cheshire Bridge and since then it's been jigging and jogging, car-to-car traffic," Anderson said.

But she heeded Mayor Kasim Reed and the Georgia Department of Transportation’s warnings of traffic chaos.

"I have a full tank of gas and packed my patience,” Anderson said.

Something drivers should get used to.

"Going to be an adjustment for everyone, but things happen," Rutledge said.

Many commuters turned to MARTA Monday morning to try to get to work.

Some cars had to be turned away from the park and ride stations because they were full.

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Channel 2’s Tom Regan went to the North Springs station, where the parking deck was packed during the morning rush hour, and so were the trains.

“It was rather jammed, but thankfully I got a seat,” MARTA rider Ally McCaster told Regan.

It was a similar story at parking decks and parking lots at a half dozen MARTA stations, all out of spots.

“We were kind of concerned. That’s why I left for the airport two hours ahead of time,” rider Loretta Hines said.

Those heading to airport factored in extra time for traveling, unsure of how bad things would be this first day back from the traditional spring break week.

"I had to take the train 'cause I wasn't sure I would get to the airport in a timely manner," said driver Diana Audley.

MARTA has added 1,200 parking spots at five MARTA stations to help with the added demand.

MARTA released a new source for real-time updates of parking availability at its major stations-- useful information that's worth checking before driving to the station.

MARTA has extra police and staff on-hand to help first-time riders navigate the system.

Tom Bazemore, a shuttle driver, was picking up out-of-town hikers Monday who were heading for the mountains.

“Were you surprised to see the parking deck full?” Regan asked Bazemore.

“Sure, that's not a normal thing down here, this time of year especially," Bazemore said.

A MARTA spokesperson told Regan the company's on time rate was 97 percent Monday, even with all the crowds.

MARTA is also working to secure additional private parking for riders, some of whom are taking ride-sharing services to get to work.