The deadliest interchange in Georgia is getting a change that should save lives

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — It’s the biggest road project in DeKalb County’s history, and it’s happening where hundreds of accidents occur every year, at the interchange of Interstate 285 and Interstate 20 East. The new plan replaces the interchange with a flyover bridge.

Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Sophia Choi spoke with DeKalb’s CEO, Michael Thurmond.

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“The most dangerous in Georgia, the most congested in Georgia, and one of the most dangerous and congested anywhere in this country,” Thurmond said about the interchange.

During a Channel 2 Action News investigation in 2015, the Georgia Department of Transportation admitted an optical illusion likely played a role in some of those crashes, especially those involving big rigs.

The interchange is part of a major transit route. Drivers often pick up speed on a long, straight stretch before facing a big hidden curve.

Lt. Gregory Vanderpool, with DeKalb County Police, said, “The driver doesn’t see and don’t realize the danger until it’s far too late.”

After our investigation, GDOT placed warning signs along the interchange, but accidents keep happening.

Vanderpool told Choi, “Between the years of 2016 until 2021, there’s been over 3,000 vehicle accidents at this intersection. Between that same time frame, there’s been 110 fatalities.”

To help save lives, GDOT is spending $685 million on efforts to make the area safer.

GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry said the changes would “reduce freight delays and crashes, and also improve the safety of this entire area.”

The flyover bridge is part of a $2 billion plan by GDOT for improvements in DeKalb, including two express toll lanes on each side of I-285 from I-20 to Interstate 85, and improvements at another notoriously busy area: the I-285/I-685 Bouldercrest Interchange.

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Construction for the first part of the plan at the I-285/I-20 interchange will begin in 2023 and is expected to last until 2026. Thurmond says the money and efforts will be worth it.

“This is going to be a major step forward in increasing safety, but also increasing mobility and convenience for the tens of thousands of people who travel on this very busy interchange. It’s the most important highway construction project in literally, the history of our county.” Thurmond said.

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