Transportation issues in and around the Atlanta metro area are vexing on a good day and good traffic days have been frightfully few since March 30 when a section of Interstate 85 mysteriously caught fire and collapsed. A vital route used by thousands of cars and trucks daily was suddenly out of commission and the section will be out of service until the middle of June if all goes according to plan. Contractors are working 24-hours a day to repair that section of highway. Commuters are left using surface streets and other travelers are stuck and not just those in the city. Traffic has slowed all around the Atlanta metro area.
But the I-85 collapse was not the only traffic trouble to befall the highways and byways of the metro. Before dawn on Monday, a driver stopped his SUV in the middle of the Downtown Connector to change lanes, according to a police report. Why on Earth would he do that? The driver, from Memphis, Tennessee, was obviously confused, something quite easy to do if you’re not accustomed to driving in Atlanta. Those who drive there regularly know the drill. You have to start manuvering early if you’re planning to exit long before it comes in sight — and if you’re looking down at your GPS or trying to read the signs you’re liable to miss it. Unfortunately, a tractor trailer didn’t see the stopped vehicle and on impact, the rig overturned with its cargo of benzoyl chloride, a toxic chemical that can cause burns to the skin and eyes and it smells pretty putrid, too. Interstate -75/I-85 were shutdown for hours. And that wasn’t all.
A little further southeast on Interstate 20, westbound lanes buckled due to a problem with underground utilities according to the Georgia Department of Transportation, sending one motorcyclist to the hospital with multiple injuries. Fortunately the road was fully repaired by 5 p.m. Monday afternoon.
Atlanta was still not out of the woods. On Wednesday, a sinkhole opened up on 5th Street between West Peachtree and Cypress streets in Midtown. No idea when that will be repaired. If there is a silver lining to all of this it would have to be that nobody was hurt in the I-85 section collapse. While there were minor injuries reported in the accident between the big rig and SUV, the drivers of both vehicles survived — and even the motorcyclist is expected to recover.
All of this in the scope of a week in a city that’s rated by U.S. News and World Report as having the ninth worst traffic in the country. Average hours an Atlantan wasted in traffic in 2015 was 59. The worst cities are Los Angeles, with 81 hours spent on the roads there and a tie between Washington, D.C. and San Francisco at 75 hours.
But back to Atlanta, who’s idea was it to put three major interstates, I-75, I-85 and I-20, straight through the middle of the South’s major city? We would bet that the next time there is a discussion about mass transit in certain suburban areas of Atlanta there may be more open minds to the idea after seeing how dependent certain sections of the city are to traffic arteries.