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Posted: 9:23 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013

Bypassing the bypass: Six ways to avoid I-285  

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By Doug Turnbull

I-285 was built almost 50 years ago as a way to get around the busy traffic Atlanta. If only. These days, I-285 often moves as badly, if not worse, than the Downtown Connector. With Metro Atlanta spread to so many corners, residential and commercial areas are in all parts of the city and commutes often do not even cross the Downtown area. I-285 has so many spokes with traffic flowing in and out of it, that one hiccup in the whole operation can send a butterfly effect of delays all along the Perimeter and the roads feeding it. I-285 in DeKalb has been especially horrendous since school returned a couple of weeks ago, with incidents almost each day making the ride even more unbearable than normal. Sunshine delays and back to school traffic have made the ride on I-285/northbound/eastbound, the Inner Loop, between I-20 and GA-400 about 20% worse than what we were used to seeing in past years. With delays getting worse, you may want to steer clear of I-285 – but how? There are not any circular roads, i.e. perimeters to the Perimeter. But there are some surface streets that run parallel to certain portions of I-285 that could work as alternates in extreme situations. We do want to note that the five of the six routes we are about to list are smaller roads and generally jam up quickly when I-285 has problems. We highly suggest listening to 95.5FM/AM750 WSB to see if the ride is bad enough to take to these roads and also to not program your GPS while you are trying to drive.

Mt. Vernon Rd./Dunwoody Club Dr./Winters Chapel Rd./Oakliff Rd./Northcrest Rd. – The most convoluted way to avoid one of the worst parts of I-285 may be one of Atlanta traffic’s best kept secrets. This quintet of mostly two-lane roads runs fairly parallel to I-285 between Dunwoody and Doraville, but jams easily. If you find I-285 to be blocked somewhere in this area, these roads will get you around it, but take them early, because there is not much room for extra traffic to move.

S. Hairston Rd./N. Hairston Rd./Mountain Industrial Blvd./Jimmy Carter Blvd. – If I-285 is unusually backed up in DeKalb County, taking Wesley Chapel Rd. to S. Hairston Rd. and then on up eventually to Jimmy Carter Blvd. is a fairly direct north-south alternate. Again, these roads cannot handle extreme traffic, so only plan this route in critical situations, during off hours, or early in rush hours.

Forest Pkwy./Flat Shoals Rd. – The south side of the Perimeter is often the least populated sector, but a blockage on it still causes headaches. Forest Pkwy. crosses both I-675 and I-75 and dead ends at Riverdale Rd. You then can take Riverdale Rd. over to Flat Shoals Rd., which crosses I-85. This route provides a 10-plus mile parallel stretch to I-285 near the Airport.

Hwy. 280/H.E. Holmes Dr./James Jackson Pkwy./S. Cobb Dr. – Despite four different names, this is all the same road. Hwy. 280 (as it is called the entire route) runs from I-20 all the way to Marietta and runs right next to I-285. If I-285 is blocked on the west side, pencil this in as a viable alternate.

Powers Ferry Rd./Mt. Vernon Hwy. – The Chattahoochee River crosses I-285 twice, making full alternates few and far between, as only some surface streets bridge the big river. If I-285 is especially gummed up between I-75 and GA-400, take Powers Ferry Rd., which becomes Mt. Vernon Hwy. Mt. Vernon actually runs all the way to Dunwoody and connects with our first I-285 alternate on the list.

I-75/85/Downtown Connector – When I-285 is backed up on either side of town, taking the Downtown Connector may be the easiest alternate, but too many people know it. Not 15 minutes after a big crash on I-285, we already notice extra delays on I-75/85 through town. Still, explore using an interstate alternate before a surface street, if you can. Interstates are more predictable and often will save time. But having the above alternates as good options in your traffic arsenal is still a good plan.

Doug Turnbull

About Doug Turnbull

Doug has been an Atlanta traffic reporter and producer as part of WSB's award-winning team since 2004 and has been covering NASCAR the news team and since then, as well.

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