On Air Now

Listen Now

Weather

cloudy-day
41°
Drizzle
H -° L 37°
  • cloudy-day
    41°
    Current Conditions
    Drizzle. H -° L 37°
  • heavy-rain-day
    Today
    Drizzle. H -° L 37°
  • clear-day
    54°
    Tomorrow
    Mostly Clear. H 54° L 37°
Listen
Pause
Error

News on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

Traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

Weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Local
Gridlock Guy: Maybe the best bargain for holiday travel
Close

Gridlock Guy: Maybe the best bargain for holiday travel

Gridlock Guy: Maybe the best bargain for holiday travel
This Express Lanes sign along I-75 in Henry County shows the price for a full trip on the busy day before Thanksgiving on November 27th, 2019.

Gridlock Guy: Maybe the best bargain for holiday travel

I hope you’re not disappointed to learn that I write this column a few days before it posts. As I write this now, the Thanksgiving exodus has begun on the Atlanta freeways. In fact, I have just started anchoring our Triple Team Traffic coverage early, so I’m working in stereo. The Thanksgiving traffic stew is quite hearty.

The corridor most predictably jammed this crazy travel day is I-75 in Clayton and Henry counties. I-75 in Cobb and Cherokee also is seeing its grind rise to a boil. Reversible Express Lanes border each of these freeways and still seem to either take a bad rap or almost completely go unnoticed altogether.

» RELATED: Pay n Go Peach Pass available at Walgreens, CVS

The I-75 Express Lanes south of town are arguably the best bargain on days like this. As the regular thru lanes winnow from four to three, traffic bottlenecks. As I write, I-75/southbound jams below Mt. Zion (Exit 233) and doesn’t break free until almost Hwy. 20/81 (Exit 218). That’s a normal thing to expect on holiday getaway days. I-75/northbound is grinding along from just above Locust Grove (Exit 212) to about Jonesboro Road (Exit 221).

Peach Pass users along I-75/sb can elect to use the Express Lanes if they are heading southbound. In fact, the total trip from I-675 to where the lanes end at Highway 155 (Exit 216) is just under $2 right now. That couple of bucks is saving southside motorists between 20 and 30 minutes, as the toll lanes are wide open.

A downside to the lanes is that they can only help one side of the interstate at a time. Currently, I-75/southbound is moving a bit better than northbound traffic, because of the extra capacity from the Express Lanes. This does leave inbound commuters up the creek, but they still can use Hwy. 42/23 between Locust Grove and Stockbridge as an alternate.

I-75/northbound in Henry County will get Express Lane assistance when they reverse them in that direction. SRTA adjusts the reversals of the lanes based on holiday volume and typically leaves them southbound on both the south and north sides of town until midway through a holiday weekend. Then the State Road and Tollway Authority keeps those same lanes northbound for most of the second half of the heavy-travel extended weekend.

That’s confusing and might not be exact enough for those trying to plan days in advance. SRTA officials sometimes gauge the backups and adjust the times to reverse the lanes. So the best bet when traveling I-75 north or south of Downtown Atlanta is to check the Peach Pass website for the status of the lanes.

Under the “Using Peach Pass” tab on PeachPass.com, click on “Pricing” and then on “Live Toll Rates” on the right side of the page. Then choose the freeway you’re trying to take and highlight the different Peach Pass pricing signs with the cursor. Those same signs also show the direction the lanes are operating.

Remember that the Express Lanes are truly meant for express trips — trips meant for several exits — and not the shorter, local trips. The South Metro Express Lanes really have only one midway entry/exit point, which is at Jonesboro Road. The lanes in Cobb and Cherokee on I-75 and I-575 have a few more, but not nearly as many exits as the regular freeway. So that adds an extra layer of planning to these trips.

Make sure that your friends and family from out of state know that the Florida SunPass and North Carolina NC Quick Pass also work in the Georgia lanes, and the Peach Pass works in those neighboring states. Having this option in the back pocket could be a huge win for the road trip.

Full trips in the I-75 South Metro Express Lanes are often less than a dollar. They’re not much more than that in even high travel periods, as demand sets the pricing and the lanes haven’t caught on as well on this side of town. The Northwest Metro Express Lanes normally do not cost more than a few dollars for full trips during rush hours, and while they have much higher demand, they have improved the toll-free lanes quite a bit. The I-85 HOT lanes are the oldest in the state (October 2011) and have the most usage and, thus, cost the most. But they also often provide an outlet for those trying to save a few minutes.

The first step in preparation for any Metro Atlanta commuter is to go ahead and get a Peach Pass, even if the commute path never heads on freeways with those toll lanes. Have one for those random trips in those corridors, just in case. And then when the opportunity to drive on I-85 north of town or on I-75 on both sides of the city arises, check PeachPass.com for the pricing and for the directions the lanes are open. And, of course, be sure and follow along on 95.5 WSB and our Triple Team Traffic Alerts App to see if conditions are bad enough to take the lanes in the first place.

Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 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@coxmg.com.

Read More

News

  • Ruiz Food Products is recalling certain El Monterey breakfast burritos for plastic contamination, officials said. >> Read more trending news  The company recalled 55,013 pounds of 12-count, value pack “El Monterey signature burritos with egg sausage and cheese with a best buy date of 1/15/2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said. Three consumers complained after noticing hard, white plastic in a burrito. There are no reports of injuries. Consumers should return or throw away the burritos if they have them.
  • The House Democrats announced two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump Tuesday morning -- abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. >> Read more trending news  The process of marking up, debating, amending and rewriting the articles of impeachment, is expected to begin begin Wednesday by the Judiciary Committee. The charges, if approved, would then be sent to the Senate, where the Republican majority would be unlikely to convict Trump. The Associated Press contributed to this report. 
  • Crews spent Tuesday trying to rescue a manatee with a bicycle tire wrapped around its body at a Florida state park, WFTV reported. >> Read more trending news   Rescue efforts at Blue Spring State Park. were unsuccessful, but SeaWorld Orlando officials said they will continue to try to rescue the animal. If it is captured, the manatee would be taken to SeaWorld for treatment. The rescue team comprises the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, SeaWorld, the Save the Manatee Club and the Volusia County government.
  • All Saudi military trainees have been grounded indefinitely from flight training at air bases across the country after a deadly shooting by a member of the Saudi Royal Air Force at Naval Air Station Pensacola. There are 852 Saudi students across the country. More than 300 Saudi military trainees are stationed at three bases in Florida. >> Read more trending news  The restriction includes 140 students at the naval base in Pensacola; 35 at nearby Whiting Field; and another 128 students at Naval Air Station Mayport, The Associated Press reported. Classroom training will continue this week. Flight training for other students will also resume while military leaders examine the vetting process, The New York Times reported. An estimated 5,100 international students training at U.S. military installations will also be part of the review. The order is in an effort to ensure student safety as they recover from the trauma of the shooting. The Saudi shooter killed three members of the U.S. military and injured eight others before he was fatally shot. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Depending on one’s perspective, pigeons wearing tiny cowboy hats is either an amusing sight or a terrible example of animal abuse. What’s undeniable is that two pigeons were spotted in a Las Vegas parking lot, wearing the miniature head gear. >> Read more trending news  Bobby Lee was heading to the grocery store Thursday when he saw the birds pecking the ground in a parking lot near a dumpster, The New York Times reported. Pigeons are not unusual in Las Vegas, but Lee pulled out his cellphone and began recording video when he noticed two birds with tiny hats -- one red, and one gray, KNVT reported. Lee posted the video to Facebook, the television station reported. The video has gone viral on Facebook and Twitter, the television station reported. “The birds have hats on, bro!” Lee, 26, can be heard during the 12-second video he originally posted on Facebook. “It got a lot of attention fast,” Lee told the Times. “The day after, I had a lot of news people texting me and people trying to buy my video.” Who would put hats on wild birds? Lee said he did not know, but he did say the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo was in town. But the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, which organizes the event, “had nothing to do with the pigeons wearing cowboy hats,” Scott Kaniewski, the editor of ProRodeo Sports News, told the Times. Animal welfare agencies contacted Lee, including Lofty Hopes, a bird rescue organization. The group asked him to be vigilant and report if any more birds had hats, the Times reported. Charles Walcott, a Cornell University ornithologist who has been studying pigeons for 30 years, viewed the video Tuesday and said the pigeons seemed to be OK despite the headwear, the Times reported. “I enjoyed the video,' Walcott told the newspaper. 'I just thought those pigeons with hats were cute. 'I think the thing that I would emphasize is I can’t see that it is causing any great harm to the pigeons. The hats are “certainly light enough. They look like happy pigeons to me. It is hard to know, of course, because they will not talk to us.”
  • Workers at a Bed, Bath & Beyond store in North Carolina were surprised to find a 14-year-old runaway inside, police said. >> Read more trending news  According to Greenville police, the 14-year-old boy ran away from home and hid in the store overnight, WITN reported. When employees arrived to open the store about 8:30 a.m., they saw someone inside and called the police, Kristen Hunter, spokeswoman for the Greenville Police Department, told the News & Observer of Raleigh. Officers responded to the store for a “breaking and entering in progress” and found the teen, the newspaper reported. The teen, whose name was not released, was returned home safely, WRAL reported.