The Super Bowl’s presence in Atlanta suggests road closures and bad traffic. But here we discuss a small open road — or a ramp, rather — that could help ease a big bottle neck on Peachtree Street in Midtown. As traffic engineers in Atlanta constantly explore ways to ease traffic without major capital expenditures and projects, one AJC reader has suggested going back to the past, to fix traffic for the future.
Frank sent in a detailed email about one of the busiest stretches in town: Peachtree Street between the Buford-Spring Connector/I-85/northbound turn and Spring Street. I’m very familiar with this, as WSB Radio and TV’s studios are right there. And I have made the right turn off of Peachtree onto the Buford-Spring Connector/northbound ramp, just north of Spring, thousands of times. But I make that right turn easily off of Peachtree/northbound.
Frank takes umbrage with a decision he says officials made over 20 years ago to allow Peachtree/southbound to also make left turns onto that very same ramp. He said that locals raised concerns at public forums about the traffic this would cause. Since Peachtree/southbound has to turn left across oncoming traffic, it backs up easily. That traffic needs a left turn signal, which then causes extra red light time on Peachtree/northbound. And then on full green lights with breaks in the traffic, drivers try to scoot across and beat the oncoming cars. That maneuver can lead to bad crashes.
Eliminating left turns in busy areas is a goal in modern traffic engineering. This principle is what has driven the construction of Diverging Diamond Interchanges (DDI’s) at Ashford Dunwoody and I-285, Jimmy Carter at I-85, Pleasant Hill at I-85, Windy Hill at I-75, and Wade Green at I-75. One is currently under construction on Camp Creek at I-285. These interchanges put what once was left-turning traffic on the opposite side of the road, so when it turns left it does not have to impede or cross oncoming traffic. While these newer interchanges are confusing, they do save time and decrease crashes.
Traffic planners routinely eliminate left hand turns on busy streets that do not have turn lanes.
Some other Peachtree Street intersections in Midtown, south of Peachtree at Spring, do not allow left turns at all. Again, they back up traffic and can be dangerous.
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Frank’s opposition to the left turn makes sense, as that left turn lane on Peachtree/southbound at the BSC backs up and then slows the regular thru lanes during peak drive times. But I pushed back on Frank’s desire to eliminate that turn. Where would Peachtree/southbound traffic be able to access I-85? That traffic would have to either pick up GA-400 back in Buckhead, route around to Piedmont, head south and then route to West Peachtree, or drive all the way down to 10th Street, a mile-plus away. As bad as the backups are at the left turn, having to route that far away to find I-85 doesn’t seem efficient. But Frank pointed out an obscure turn that could eliminate the whole problem.
Just south of the debated left turn, Peachtree/southbound actually can access the BSC. Just past Rhodes Castle, south of Spring, there is a small right hand-only turn that Peachtree commuters can take onto the Buford-Spring Connector/northbound. I have both covered traffic and worked at WSB for almost 15 years — I never knew about this turn. For one, I have never had to take that ramp, since the other one I normally take is much more convenient. There also is zero signage on Peachtree, telling drivers that it even exists.
With so many people in the routine of taking the more common left turn, this small right turn just a block or so ahead gets very little attention. This less-traveled ramp actually merges with the traffic coming off of W. Peachtree and onto the BSC/northbound. The only inconvenience to the Peachtree/southbound drivers for choosing this ramp, instead of the left-hander, is that they would have to sit through the lights at Spring and at Rhodes Circle.
I posed this revelation to the Georgia Department of Transportation and they are exploring it. More than likely, they aren’t going to eliminate that left turn. But maybe with some more signage and education, some of that backed up traffic can use this right turn and save themselves — and some others — a bit of time. Thanks, Frank!
Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter 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.