Gridlock Guy: Answers on long term repairs, Express Lanes, and wrecks at a split

Last week’s piece on the unpredictability of Atlanta traffic pressed several readers to email in with an array of questions and observations. Since they covered so much ground, the queries warrant a look this week.

Questions have been edited for clarity and length.

I am hoping you can provide an update and/or ETA for completion of the replacement of the Cheshire Bridge Road bridge. How much longer can we expect that road to be closed and traffic rerouted through adjacent neighborhoods?

-Karen C.

Karen echoes the frustration of many on that Cheshire Bridge corridor, which saw a fire under the bridge over Peachtree Creek destroy it and shut down the busy Northeast Atlanta road. The elimination of the bridge last August has sent extra traffic onto Lenox Road and onto streets not meant for that load of cars.The absence of the bridge has also really hurt local businesses in the area.

The Atlanta DOT project site has no expected date for the bridge’s being rebuilt and little, if any, progress has been made. I have reached out to ATL DOT for updates on the delays and will report back when I hear something more.

Might you have any info on the status of DeKalb Avenue repairs?

-Craig T.

The City of Atlanta began long-awaited improvements on DeKalb Avenue from Jackson Street to Ridgecrest Road last fall. Resurfacing, bike lane-installation, intersection improvements, and traffic signal-timing are among the upgrades for this heavily traveled road on this mixed residential-commercial stretch.

ATL DOT’s website lists this DeKalb Avenue project’s end date as September 2023, but at least there is a set end date here.

We just passed the Express Lanes/Peach Pass scenario south of Stockbridge. Why is it that our tax dollars are used to build lanes that we then have to pay extra to utilize? It seems to be saying, “If you can afford it, you aren’t held back by traffic like the poor suckers in the regular lanes.” I, and many people I know, would welcome an explanation as to how pay lanes - as opposed to just another lane - lessen traffic for everyone.

-Mike B.

This question comes up often and the logic is sound. Numerous Gwinnett drivers asked this in 2011 when the HOV lanes became Peach Pass lanes.

First, people pay for government-funded items all the time. Entry passes and parking at public parks cost money. The U.S. Postal Service is paid for with taxes, but they charge for stamps and shipping. Riders have to pay money for public transit, which receives government funding. Paying to use toll lanes is no different.

Express Lanes also draw some traffic out of the cost-free main lanes, so traffic moves better for the non-paying drivers, too. And toll roads also provide another much-needed revenue stream for GDOT, as fuel taxes have not kept pace with traffic growth.

Some GDOT projects, such as the I-75/I-575 Northwest Metro Express Lanes in Cobb and Cherokee counties, are public-private partnerships, meaning that private firms put up the money for the project’s building and then get to reap some or all of the toll revenue. So in those cases, taxpayer money is not as influential as other projects.

One complication with the I-75 South Metro Express Lanes is that traffic is so heavy in each direction, but the reversible lanes can only help one side at a time. Five years after their opening and in hindsight, building one lane for each direction may have been a better play there.

People [on I-85/northbound in Suwanee] start to brake as they either get ready to go to I-985 or are confused about what to do. A vehicle had slowed down or maybe stopped when a pick up truck slammed into the rear at full speed. This started a chain reaction. I wonder if the speed limit needs to be changed there to get people to be more careful as they figure out what to do.

-Paul M.

Paul is referring to the I-85/northbound ramp to I-985/northbound in North Gwinnett. This interchange comes at traffic fast and a driver can easily end up in the wrong lane when trying to decide which freeway they need. Drivers following GPS turn-by-turn directions often get the command to take the correct lane at the last minute and that helps cause these wrecks.

When planning to use a GPS, drivers should look at the entire route before pressing “Go”. Doing so clues one in on what to expect and makes them not as dependent on the timing of when automated directions play.

And Paul’s observation is another reminder of the dangers of driving too far over the speed limit and being distracted. Both eat into reaction times and increase the likelihood of trouble when other people take evasive measures.

As always, thank you very much for reading and for the great questions. I look forward to hearing even more and am honored that all of you take the time to read this. Yes, even you.

Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also hosts a traffic podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@cmg.com.





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