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The Gridlock Guy- Doug Turnbull

  • Rain always hurts the Atlanta commute (especially this past week), but you can make a difference on your drive and those around you.Take our advice. Headlights on, flashers off: Most cars have automatic light-responsive lights, but this aid doesn’t do the job when rain falls in daylight. This means turning them on is incumbent on the driver. Georgia law leaves no daylight here - always operate them in any precipitation. Turning on the headlights in the rain is simply the safe, considerate thing to do. On the flipside, driving with the hazard lights or flashers on is not good protocol. Hazard lights are meant to alert drivers that you are in danger or that your car has a problem. If conditions are such that cars have to slow well below the speed limit and drive with their hazards on, the best move is to pull onto an exit or into a parking lot and wait out the storm. Georgia hasn’t outlawed driving with flashers in non-emergencies, but it isn’t safe. Rain can add 30-50 percent more time to your trip: A general rule of thumb the WSB Traffic Team uses is that your normal, every day trip time is will get that much worse just because of rain. The worse the rain and the closer the the height of rush hour your commute is, the more the percentages increase. A 30 minute-trip with normal delays in rush hour becomes at least 45 mins in heavy rain. And crashes make the times even longer. Distractions and speed make it worse: In the rain, vehicles take longer to stop, there are more wrecks, flooding occurs, vehicles have less traction, sharp turns are harder to negotiate, other people drive poorly and delays are worse. All of these factors require more reaction time; distracted driving and speeding have an inverse relationship with reaction time. To quote Jim Morrison, “Keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel.” Stay away from standing water: You may have no choice in the matter, but try not to drive through water, unless you have an idea of how deep it is. During downpours, people stall their cars often in what they think is only a big puddle. Tuesday afternoon, a large puddle turned into substantial flooding at end of the I-85/southbound ramp to the Buford-Spring Connector/Hwy. 13 - which is downward sloping. Vehicles nudged forward through both pools and we did not notice any getting stuck, but HERO units soon blocked the ramp. However, if that water was only a few inches deeper, it could have entered the engine compartments on the cars and caused real trouble. Also, if cars hit these large aqua plains at speed, they hydroplane. Try and dodge big puddles in flooding and if you cannot, either turn around or go slowly. Telecommute or take MARTA: Non-vehicular ways to work are not options for everyone, but the best way to avoid the terrors of stormy rush hours is to avoid the roads all together. MARTA stations are sheltered from the rain and the trains have hardly the delays the roads have. Sure, buses get stuck in traffic, but at least they help remove the stress of operating a vehicle in bad conditions. And choosing to strategically work from home during inclement weather eliminates commuting stress altogether. Prepare with the WSB Traffic Team: The last piece of advice is to know your commute before and while you go. Start your drive with the south’s biggest, most experienced traffic team 24/7 on News 95.5/AM750 WSB and the WSB Radio App. Watch Mark Arum’s reports on Channel 2 Action News every weekday morning. And get a full rundown of the wrecks around town on the WSBradio.com traffic page and @WSBTraffic on Twitter. Also, look for a big update in mid-July to the WSB-TV Traffic App, which then you will be able to run in the background on your phone during your ride. This new app update will allow it to tell you even more about your drive before you leave and what is happening ahead of you during it. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive airborne anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at doug.turnbull@coxinc.com
  • The I-75 South Metro Express Lanes in Henry County have not passed the naked eye test to most passersby. How could they? We often see from the WSB Jam Cams in our Traffic Center or from the Skycopter above the same thing commuters see: very few travelers in the volume-driven toll lanes between I-675 and McDonough. But as the State Road and Tollway Authority celebrates a new downtown office and a customer service center that combines SRTA’s and Georgia Regional Transportation Authority’s services, they have something else for which to clink glasses. Since the lanes opened to much aplomb at the end of January (after two years of road work), the lanes have seen 500,000 trips. “That’s a significant milestone for us where that is, versus where we were forecasting it to be,” SRTA and GRTA Executive Director Chris Tomlinson says. “Our initial projections for average daily trips - that’s Monday through Friday - was approximately 6,000 trips per weekday. Today we’re seeing about 25 percent more than that or about 7,600 trips.” Being ahead of pace is a likely surprise to Henry County commuters and it includes trips made by HERO units, a factor not entered into the forecast. But Tomlinson says those HERO trips are mere drops in the bucket, as the number of statewide Peach Passes is over 600,000 and Florida and North Carolina toll pass holders can also use the lanes. Lane usage has not grown enough to cause the toll to exceed $.50 for an entire trip, but Tomlinson expects numbers to steadily grow. “It is not uncommon for volumes to grow for the first 12 or even the first 24 months. And actually, almost year over year, we’ve seen increases on I-85.” The I-85 HOT lanes in Gwinnett opened in the fall of 2011 and also looked like a ghost town in their first few weeks. As people got used to them, they soon filled-in and prices for full trips continue to increase. Tomlinson notes a big difference between those lanes, which replaced existing lanes, and those on I-75. “When we opened I-75, we took three general purpose lanes and added two additional lanes, so that’s a 66 percent increase in capacity. That’s a lot of capacity, so that’s why you don’t see that level of congestion.” Tomlinson points out that I-85 is six lanes each way and more people use it in general. And SRTA data shows that the I-75 lanes have helped at least slightly ease the pain on the Stockbridge side of the lanes. “All those vehicles that have switched over have made a benefit on the general purpose lanes,” Tomlinson explains. “That bottleneck that used to occur on I-75 at I-675, that still occurs. But our data shows that it occurs for a shorter period of time.” One big flaw in the reversible lanes is that they can only help one side at a time, so if both sides of I-75 are jammed up in PM drive on a travel Friday, for example, only southbound travelers can benefit. And the lanes take two hours to clear and reverse, so they can’t be responsive to wrecks and other traffic interruptions. Tomlinson says SRTA will be watching volume in the fall when school resumes and for opportune times during summer road work. A $.50 trip in those lanes could shave a bunch of time off of a trip to Florida or home to McDonough. “We’ve received some anecdotal calls like that, from people seeing cars go by in the Express Lanes and saying, ‘That made me get it, because I want to have the choice next time to bypass some of that,’ ” Tomlinson says. Criticizing the expensive, delay-heavy project as a failure is easy, especially since it involves adding tolls. Using this filter (which I have had trouble finding on Snapchat), the conclusion is easy. But then apply the filter of facts from SRTA and possibly the narrative changes some. And then remember that success is measured over a much larger sample than six months. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive airborne anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at doug.turnbull@coxinc.com
  • Summer traffic is supposed to be light, right? Really that notion is a fallacy on the interstates, though rush hour patterns do slightly change. One route that is unexpectedly slow is GA-400/southbound each morning between Alpharetta and Sandy Springs. For the last few weeks, GDOT crews have blocked the right-flex shoulder lane between Northridge and the North Springs MARTA Station to clear out trees. The added 10-15 minutes to commuters’ trip times has understandably drawn ire. Smilin’ Mark McKay views the delays each morning from the WSB Skycopter and Ashley Frasca is our Traffic Team’s main reporter on GA-400 during morning drive.. “Pretty consistently, we have watched crews block that right flex lane in Sandy Springs before 8 a.m. almost every day,” Frasca explains. “It certainly keeps the ride out of Alpharetta slower than it should be in the 8 o’clock hour. Folks see slow traffic from Haynes Bridge down to the MARTA Station.” GDOT spokesperson Jill Goldberg shed some light on this daytime closure. “[The] flexible shoulder lane closures are actually for the Transform 285/400 interchange project,” Goldberg stated via email. “The trees are being cleared for the collector-distributor lanes that are part of the project.” The I-285/GA-400 project’s main objective is to channel local traffic onto separate collector-distributor lanes and ramps to keep the through lanes more open for traffic that is just passing through the area. Goldberg says that these CD lanes extend in both directions on GA-400 to the Spalding Drive overpass, just north of the North Springs Station. So we know where and why the work is being done - but why do they have to work during morning drive in a lane that people have been accustomed to using the last few years? “We’ve gotten lots of questions, too, about why we close it during the day. The reason is that tree clearing and the other land disturbing activities and associated heavy machinery are too dangerous to do in the dark/overnight hours,” Goldberg explains. “The contractor has to do the work in the daytime and to restrict it to in between the morning and afternoon flex shoulder hours isn’t effective. The contractor would not have enough time to do the work in that short window.” The project includes CD lanes on I-285 also, but any tree-clearing there likely will be less disruptive during rush hours, since I-285 does not have any flex lanes. People do illegally drive in the emergency lanes sometimes and people in all lanes slow to look at flashing lights. I-285 likely has less trees to remove anyway. Frasca brings some perspective on the big picture of the Transform 285/400 project. “For now, it’s a little pain, but will be all gain when the work is done.” Frankly, this flex lane work spoils the summer feel on GA-400. But summer is also the best time of year for crews to work, both because of the weather and school being out. As Frasca said, we have to take a step back in comfort, to make two steps forward. Unfortunately, the Atlanta traffic problem is so big and ever-changing that commuters are always in this parallax toward improvement. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive airborne anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at doug.turnbull@coxinc.com
  • The Atlanta Falcons’ move from the Georgia Dome to Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a big venue change, but it is not causing the stir the Braves’ immigration to the suburbs has caused. The SunTrust Park move has gotten due scrutiny, because of the foreseen effect on the traffic in the busy Cumberland corridor. So far, Braves traffic has not been quite as bad as expected fortunately. The Falcons are moving, oh, about 100 yards to the south, so their traffic plan needs far less of an introduction. But AMB Entertainment (Arthur Blank’s company) officials have made tweaks in preparation for the late summer opening of Blank’s crown jewel facility. AMB hosted local Atlanta traffic reporters for a Wednesday walk-around of the facility and a Q&A session. The AMB brain trust is taking some pages from the Braves’ playbook (that hopefully have nothing to do with that awful, error-filled third inning last Tuesday night). For Falcons games, Atlanta United matches, college football and basketball games and concerts at MB Stadium, AMB urges fans to purchase parking beforehand and then navigate using Waze directly to the address of each lot. They are making sure each lot has a color-coded name and that signage in the area directs people to specific lots and not just to the MB Stadium property. Previous NFL traffic studies had shown that lousy signage was one of the biggest problems around the Dome. Capacity for Falcons games at MB Stadium is roughly 71,000 - same as the Dome. But the stands can expand to 75,000 for college football games and about 83,000 for a marquee basketball game. Parking will remain at 20,000 to 23,000 spaces within 15-20 minute walks of the stadium and in all directions around the grounds. AMB officials heavily encourage people to use Northside Drive between MB Stadium and I-75. Eric Waldman, Georgia World Congress Center Senior Director of Client and Guest Services, says that his team and Georgia DOT work closely to time the traffic lights on Northside Drive to move traffic up and down that corridor more efficiently around big events. Waldman’s team operates a traffic management center inside the GWCC. They also suggest trying to bypass the busy Williams St. exit off of I-75/85 and go down to the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive exit and head west to MB Stadium. NFL traffic studies, maybe surprisingly, rank Atlanta in the top 10 for its traffic plan around its venue. Access to MARTA is a key part of this, with Atlanta also ranking tops in these studies in public transit access. AMB says 20-30 percent of fans take MARTA to events at the Dome and will to MB Stadium. Among these, 80 percent use the Dome/GWCC/CNN/Philips Arena stop and 20 percent use Vine City just to the west. Many fans use the north-south Red Line and change trains at Five Points. The train-changing causes a bottleneck, even though MARTA houses extra trains in a train “pocket” beneath the property, so officials want fans to try and walk directly to Five Points or park at stations along the Blue/Green east-west lines. Personally, I live in Tucker and drive to Kensington or Decatur and then take MARTA to games. Finally, MB Stadium will have Uber dropoff and pickup zones in specific areas and will actually geo-code a buffer inside the Uber app, to prevent idling drivers outside the zones from showing up for fans to use. This will force Uber and other rideshare services like Lyft from hampering the traffic flow, by stopping in inconvenient areas. Overall, the Mercedes-Benz traffic plan is not jaw-dropping or groundbreaking. The framework was already in place and AMB officials are splicing in some good ideas that other teams, like the Braves, use. Events at the stadium will undoubtedly cause extra traffic, but at least traffic light-timing, alternate routes and public transportation will help ease the pain. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive airborne anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at doug.turnbull@coxinc.com
  • The unofficial start of summer is here. While that moniker draws so many positive connotations, one grim reality is that Memorial Day and the 99 days following are the deadliest for U.S. teens on the roads. Data from AAA one year ago shows a 16 percent increase in teen driving deaths during this stretch, in comparison to the other 265 days of the year. Reasons for this dire increase include, simply, more teens are on the roads more times of the day. And with even less commitments to school during the summer, teens can stay out later, party more and put themselves in a more compromised, distracted state behind the wheel. Summer time is carefree - driving should not be. Woodrow Gaines runs a teen driver training organization called Fear This Inc., with a driving class called Teen Vehicle Operations Course. Not surprisingly, Gaines is a champion for safe teen driving and the recent deadly day for six teens on metro Atlanta roads horrified him, as it did many others. On April 24, a horrible crash in south Fulton County claimed four teens’ lives and injured a fifth one in the same vehicle. “There were five students in the vehicle. I’m going to say that that was a distraction, where the driver’s attention was focused on what was going on inside the vehicle, instead of outside the vehicle,” Gaines says, echoing a sentiment repeated for years in driving courses about the increased distractions having multiple teens in cars brings. Georgia driving laws for early teen licensees limit how many passengers teens can carry for that very reason. That same fateful Monday afternoon, two Cobb County teen brothers lost their lives when their car drove under a school bus in Roswell. Even though police found the bus driver at fault, Gaines believes the teen driver could have helped prevent the wreck. “A contributing factor was that he was speeding and not focused enough on his driving,” Gaines says. Any fault found with mistakes these drivers make doesn’t lessen the grief those close to them have or how much sympathy we should show. But we should also learn through these tragedies. “These kids are put into situations that they have never been trained to handle,” Gaines says. “If you look at other countries, they put more emphasis on road safety than we do.” He continues, “I hope that one day the teen driving issue is raised to the same society concern as animal rights.” Gaines says one problem is the parents stop their kids’ driver’s education at the bare minimum. Gaines’ TVOC program employs law enforcement officers, some of whom have personal experience investigating teen crashes and delivering the awful news to parents. The course involves in-class testing, but even more importantly a behind-the-wheel cones course that is akin to what officers themselves use to train. I have observed the braking, reaction time part of the course and most adults would struggle with it. I would. “We’re telling the parent to not stop at driver’s ed, continue that training. Parents put five or ten years’ worth of energy into their kids’ sports. There’s a low priority of social concern for teen drivers,” Gaines says. “They need to be aware of how deadly this is. There’s this thought: ‘It won’t happen to my kid.’” Another, even bigger, responsibility, Gaines says, rests on parents’ shoulders. “Parents need to be an example of the driver they want their kid to be. Parents need to put their phone down, wear their seatbelt, and not speed.” Doug Turnbull, the PM drive airborne anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at doug.turnbull@coxinc.com

News

  • Authorities are calling a woman’s death suspicious after she was found fully-clothed and faced down in a DeKalb County creek. She had also been shot, DeKalb County police spokeswoman Shiera Campbell said. A man walking on a trail saw the woman’s body in a creek on Fieldgreen Drive in Stone Mountain, Campbell said. The creek is near Redan High School.  The woman’s identity has not been released, but she is believed to be in her late 20s to early 30s, Campbell said.  No other details were released.  — Please return to AJC.com for updates. In other news: [Summary]
  • Channel 2 Action News is learning more about an incident involving an Atlanta police officer. APD is investigating claims of excessive force after someone posted video on social media showing an officer punching a man while holding him down. The incident happened in downtown last Thursday. APD sent us the mugshot of Rickey Williams, the man who was getting arrested. Chief Erika Shields with the Atlanta Police Department said Tuesday, the officer seen punching the man, Identified as Officer Quinton Green, has been relieved of duty and is currently on administrative leave. Shields said she will review the evidence to determine the appropriate disciplinary action, if any. 'Chief Shields has always held professionalism and honesty in high regard and will continue to hold her officers to the highest standard,' the Atlanta Police Department said in a statement Wednesday. Check back with WSBTV.com and tune into Channel 2 Action News for updates on this story.
  • A woman carrying her two young sons arrived home from work around 3 a.m., May 12 to find two men had broken into her apartment.  The men shocked her with tasers, threw boiling water on her and raped her while her older son watched, a police report said. Police have arrested 17-year-old Francisco Palencia, 19-year-old Josue Ramirez and an unnamed 15-year-old female in connection with the assault. All three suspects have been charged with home invasion, rape, aggravated sodomy, kidnapping, aggravated battery and cruelty to children. More arrests are possible, a Gwinnett County Police Department spokesman said.  WATCH: Gwinnett police chase ends in 14 traffic, drug charges Gwinnett mom accused of drugging kids arrested in Tennessee Palencia and the 15-year-old were arrested Tuesday. Jail logs show Ramirez was booked on June 15. Palencia and Ramirez are being held without bond at the Gwinnett County Detention Center. Because the 15-year-old’s identity has not been disclosed, her bond status was not immediately clear. The men were wearing dark clothes and ski masks when the victim found them in the kitchen of her apartment in unincorporated Tucker. She tried to get away from them and protect her children, but one of the men threw two pots of boiling water on her, severely burning her shoulder, a police report said. The men shocked the victim with tasers and pushed her towards the bedroom. They forced her to perform oral sex before raping her on her bed, the police report said. The victim’s older son, who had followed her and the men into the bedroom, sat on the bed as his mother was raped, the report said. Police have not disclosed the age of the victim’s children. The 15-year-old suspect was not in the apartment during the assault, according to the police report. She is believed to have driven Palencia and Ramirez to the apartment, a police spokesman said.  When the men left the apartment, the victim found that the men cut a screen on her back porch and got into the home through an unlocked sliding glass door, according to police. The victim’s jewelry box, school ID and German shepherd puppy were missing from the apartment, the police report said.  The dog had been on the screened-in porch when the victim was at work. Police don’t know if it’s been found.  Like Gwinnett County News on Facebook | Follow us on Twitter and Instagram
  • An inmate was shot and killed Wednesday after authorities said he grabbed a deputy's gun and fired it at Nashville's 100 Oaks Mall, according to multiple reports. >> Read more trending news In a tweet around 2 p.m. local time, Vanderbilt University officials wrote that a shooting was reported at the 100 Oaks Mall campus of Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
  • The Latest on the Trump administration's revived travel ban for visitors from six mostly Muslim countries (all times local): 9:25 p.m. The Trump administration has set new criteria for visa applicants from six mainly Muslim nations and all refugees that require a 'close' family or business tie to the United States. The move comes after the Supreme Court partially restored President Donald Trump's executive order that was widely criticized as a ban on Muslims. The new guidelines sent to U.S. embassies and consulates on Wednesday say that applicants from the six countries must prove a relationship with a parent, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling in the U.S. This is according to a State Department cable obtained by the Associated Press. Grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-laws and sisters-in-law, fiancees or other extended family members are not considered to be close relationships. ___ 12:06 p.m. Senior officials from the departments of State, Justice and Homeland Security are finalizing criteria that visitors from six mostly Muslim must meet to avoid the Trump administration's revived travel ban. The White House deliberations come as U.S. embassies and consulates await instructions later Wednesday on how to implement this week's Supreme Court order that partially reinstated the ban after it was blocked by lower courts. The new measures are expected to be implemented Thursday. The justices' opinion exempts applicants from the ban if they can prove a 'bona fide relationship' with a U.S. person or entity. Government lawyers must determine how to define such a relationship. The court offered only broad guidelines — suggesting it would include a relative, job offer or invitation to lecture in the U.S.
  • ___ KERSHAW DAY The Los Angeles Dodgers send Clayton Kershaw to the mound for the finale of their four-game Freeway Series against the rival Angels. Kershaw is 7-0 with a 2.38 ERA in his last 10 starts. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner is 5-2 with a 2.69 ERA in nine career starts against the Angels. He will be opposed by JC Ramirez, who pitched six effective innings in a win at Boston in his previous start on Saturday. SLIDING ROCKIES The Colorado Rockies get a sorely needed day off before beginning a weekend series at surging Arizona. Colorado has dropped a season-high eight in a row, falling off the pace in the loaded NL West. The Rockies have been outscored 66-23 during the skid. Right-hander Jon Gray, who started on opening day for Colorado, is set to come off the disabled list and start the series opener against the Diamondbacks. He has been out since April with a stress fracture on his left foot. HERE COMES KLUBER Corey Kluber looks to continue his roll when he pitches for Cleveland in the finale of a four-game set against Texas. The 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner is 3-0 with a sparkling 1.29 ERA in his last five starts. The right-hander has struck out at least 10 batters in four of his five June outings. Andrew Cashner is expected to come off the disabled list to start for the Rangers. He has been sidelined by a strained left oblique. FENWAY FUN Kyle Gibson is hoping to add to a successful June when Minnesota closes out a four-game series at Boston on the anniversary of his major league debut in 2013. The 29-year-old right-hander is 3-1 with a 4.13 ERA in five starts so far this month. He has allowed only one run in 15 innings in two career starts at Fenway Park. David Price gets the ball for the Red Sox. Price has won his last five decisions against the Twins. ___ More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball