ATLANTA — It’s Back 2 School season and back to a new routine for families across north Georgia. With school, work and social life returning to normal for the first time in years, traffic is noticeably more congested.
“It’s get up, get them up, get dressed and everybody get in the car. To think about it, I have to do a scheduling thing”, said Dominique Pearson, who has children attending school in person this year.
Natalie Dale with the Georgia Department of Transportation agrees, “our traffic patterns have been ever evolving since COVID.” Instead of only considering school calendars, holidays and events, GDOT takes patterns before, during and now after COVID-19 into consideration.
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When it comes to back-to-school patterns, advice has not changed. Dale says you have to think about your commute on two levels. First, she said “think hyper local about what’s in your bubble. What school zones you have to pass through to get to the interstate.” Once you get on the highway, Dale told us to add a bit of time to what was your summer commute. That’s because more cars will be on the road, which leads to slower speeds and more crashes.
Surface streets are the focus for safety in the city of Atlanta. In 2021, leaders lowered the speed limit to 25 miles per hour. The change impacted nearly 75% of all city streets.
Triple Team Traffic’s Mike Shields guides drivers to work and school every day on Channel 2 Action News This Morning. He spoke with a city transportation engineer who works on signal timing. He showed us the box that controls stoplights. Desmond Cole told Shields the timing can be updated remotely through a controller. Atlanta DOT, GDOT and the Atlanta Police Department work together to quickly make adjustments when there are big events in town, a crash or other emergencies.
Cole also explained what his team needs when drivers call and complain about a poorly timed light. “Sometimes you have to gather more information,” said Cole. Information like the time of day a driver experiences issues and from which direction you’re approaching the intersection. He added, “based on that we can come and observe and tweak accordingly in real time.” To contact the city of Atlanta Department of Transportation about signal problems call 404-546-0311 or fill out the form online here.
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When it comes to beating the red lights, Cole warned drivers, “if the corridor is timed for 25 miles per hour, you’re not going to get anywhere by trying to do 40. It will catch you at the next light.”
Congestion has increased in Georgia because there are many more driver on the road. Channel 2 Action News requested the data from Georgia’s Department of Revenue. As of July, there are 10,458,845 registered vehicles on the road. In 2021 there were 10,352,085 vehicles. Compare that to July 2020, when there were 9,998,917 vehicles. That’s about a half million more cars on Georgia roads and highways over the past two years.
One of the busiest interchanges in Georgia is undergoing a major transformation. The Transform 400/285 project is one of the largest construction projects in state history. “It’s probably one of the most congested and well-traveled interchanges in the southeast, if not the nation.”
Construction on the interchange began in 2017. The timeline for completion has shifted many times due to weather, COVID-19, staffing shortages and supply chain issues. Dale told Shields work is on pace to reach “substantial completion” by early 2023. There will be at least one more major shift for which drivers, nearby businesses and emergency responders will have to prepare.
GDOT will close three lanes of I-285 to demo a bridge, then will close three lanes on the other side. It is unsafe to do such work with drivers nearby, so it will cut off the perimeter at the point as work is underway. Dale said GDOT will work with nearby employers and emergency responders ahead of time to make sure they are educated on the best routes. She also told Shields the agency will tell Channel 2 Action News as soon as a date, time and best detours are set, as “we certainly want your viewers to come to you because we have such a great line of communication.”
Triple Team Traffic provides updates on the commute across Metro Atlanta every day LIVE on Channel 2 Action News This Morning from 4:30 a.m. to 7 a.m.
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