Gridlock Guy: Layers of lane closures a headache on GA-400

An aerial view from the WSB Skycopter shows the left lane closed each direction on GA-400 near Lenox Road and the delays.

The recent rides on GA-400 and I-285 near their interchange have gotten worse, thanks to the months-long lane reductions for the I-285 bridge rebuilds. These have squeezed I-285 in both directions near GA-400, mainly causing delays on I-285/westbound (Outer Loop). A couple of months after that began, GDOT reduced GA-400/northbound at I-285 by a lane for the same reason, but with less press than the I-285 closures.

Add in the relocated, new GA-400/southbound ramps to I-285 with some of the confusion-induced delays there and the drive in the interchange has been especially tough during rush hours.

A new wrinkle in the fold has come about in recent days, as MARTA’s Red Line track replacement prompted a nine-day closure of the left lanes of GA-400 each way just north of Lenox Road (Exit 2). This major rail repair also interrupted MARTA service between Lindbergh and the Medical Center stops, prompting the operation to set up bus bridges and offer rideshare credits for those seeking to travel that route.

Ironically, a good alternative to the GA-400 delays in each direction would be to take the MARTA Red Line.

The main issue with these closures is the fact that they are taking place at the same time as the long term blockages in Sandy Springs. The GA-400/northbound ride was without a left lane near Lenox and then without a lane up at I-285. That has made the morning and afternoon rush hours between I-85 and I-285 in Buckhead absolutely miserable.

But MARTA did indeed work with the state in coordinating these closures.

“MARTA has worked closely with GDOT since September of last year on this phase of our Track Replacement Project, and we finalized the lane closure permits in December,” MARTA spokesperson Stephany Fisher told the AJC and 95.5 WSB. “Additionally, GDOT and MARTA management meet monthly and this project has been discussed frequently over the last six months.”

MARTA has done a stellar job of alerting the public of the Red Line service interruptions, sending out warnings weeks in advance and then nearly daily updates during the February 17th-26th track replacement. The Red Line service was completely interrupted until late on Wednesday the 22nd and then operated in limited capacity the next few days, before fully restoring on Sunday the 26th.

But the heads-up on the lane closures on GA-400 fell through the cracks. On Friday, February 17th, the WSB Traffic Team noticed the left lane being closed each way on GA-400. When that lasted into PM drive, I called GDOT’s 511 Traffic Management Center and they said the closure would be in place for the next ten or so days. That was the first we had heard that and we then realized it had to do with the MARTA project.

Whether that communication should have fallen on the transit agency or on the state is a question they have to answer. But for all the rightful hoopla that the track replacement received and for all the alerts we get about various nightly and weekend lane closures for other GDOT projects, there was no notice of this major interruption on GA-400.

Once we realized this would be a reality for days, we detailed the delays and the reasons why constantly on 95.5 WSB in our traffic reports inside and outside of rush hour. We also kept alerts of it active in our Triple Team Traffic Alerts App for the breadth of the closure.

Coordinating road closures and events has been a moving target between the state and local agencies. Construction of the I-75 Peach Pass Express Lanes did not subside when Truist Park opened in 2017. Crews in Sandy Springs did not interrupt the paralyzingly slow road closures on I-285 during the Atlanta Braves 2021 World Series run or at any time the last few years around adjourning Braves traffic. People are just supposed to check ahead and then plan their trips around that work zone, unless they want to sit in delays at night.

MARTA wisely scheduled the rail replacement and GA-400 lane closures around the President’s Day holiday weekend and the winter breaks that left many school systems out all or part of last week.

Could MARTA have delayed their track replacement until after the lane reductions on I-285 and GA-400 have ended? Possibly, but MARTA also has objectives to meet to maintain, advance, and grow. Could they have just closed one lane in one direction of GA-400 instead of one both ways? Maybe not, considering the amount of vehicles parked in those blocked lanes to tend to the project.

The agency did hire a traffic firm to manage the lane closures and they maintain that the blockage was mandatory. “We understand these temporary lane closures can be inconvenient, but they are necessary to complete this track work safely,” Fisher said, noting that everything will be open in time for the start of the next work week.

The lane closures on GA-400 near Lenox for the past week-plus were a nuisance, especially when combined with the Sandy Springs road work. But they were necessary. They just needed to be communicated more clearly. Thankfully, they are open now.

Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. Download the Triple Team Traffic Alerts App to hear reports from the WSB Traffic Team automatically when you drive near trouble spots. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@cmg.com.





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