The I-285/GA-400 Sandy Springs work zone is complicated enough, given that many exits now start at different points, lanes zig and zag around different bridge rebuilds, and the pavement is in various degrees of repair. The entire stretch will be repaved in the last phase of the heavily delayed, behemoth Transform 285/400 project.
A months-long lane reduction in the area has just concluded, bringing I-285 back to four or five lanes each way between Roswell Road (Exit 25) and Ashford Dunwoody (Exit 29). But various other tweaks sometimes file the lanes down to three again (near Roswell Road). And, unrelated to this monster rebuild, GDOT crews will block the left lane each way between Roswell Road and Riverside Drive (Exit 24) for a two-month stretch, beginning Monday night, August 28.
But even in the areas where all lanes are open again, navigation is tricky and the shoulders are sometimes narrow or non-existent. These factors often help cause trouble and especially with large trucks in the sinuous, narrow lanes. This was never more true than on one gridlocked Wednesday morning rush hour.
At approximately 7:30 a.m. on August 16, WSB Triple Team Traffic’s Mike Shields noticed significant delays forming on our Triple Team Traffic Alerts App along I-285/eastbound (Inner Loop) near Roswell Road in Sandy Springs. When our 24-hour traffic team sees abnormalities, we immediately go digging around on our Jam Cams and start making calls to find the issues. Since this was rush hour, our 95.5 WSB airborne anchor in the Skycopter, Smilin’ Mark McKay, was nearby.
“I was in the Skycopter over I-285 in Doraville and we went directly to Sandy Springs. When we arrived I saw something we immediately couldn’t explain!” McKay told the AJC and 95.5 WSB. “Upon closer examination, we noticed two big rigs involved in a crash. One was a flatbed whose cab was covered in - trees!”
Whenever two trucks make contact in this area, the fallout is bad enough. But now there was a necessary extensive cleanup and an odd one at that.
“It was one of the strangest sights I had seen from the Skycopter in a long time!” McKay, with over two decades of experience flying over Atlanta traffic, exclaimed.
The sight spurred the guessing game - how in the world did trees end up on a truck cab?
“We did a quick airborne assessment and felt confident enough to report that the flat bed was carrying a load of landscaping trees and that the load had shifted because of the crash,” McKay said. “Most of the trees were all around and on the cab of the tractor trailer.”
Thankfully, no major injuries were reported in this exchange.
And since this sight was so odd, which made it fit in perfectly with Atlanta traffic, McKay said he and others on 95.5 WSB could not avoid the puns. He called the melee “in-tree-guing” on the air and Atlanta’s Morning News Host Chris Chandler summoned “Paul Bunyan” in one of the traffic tosses to McKay. Fellow traffic reporter Ashley Frasca felt obligated to harken to her Saturday morning “Green and Growing” gardening show on WSB.
“Unfortunately it was no laughing matter for commuters making the trek from Smyrna into Sandy Springs,” McKay said. “Three right lanes of the Inner Loop were blocked at the scene to clean up the mess. It caused morning-long gridlock on I-285 starting near Truist Park.”
Since the northwest Inner Loop of I-285 was a no-go, traffic jumped onto I-75/southbound through Northwest Atlanta and into Midtown, jamming it. Heavy volume also gummed up I-85/northbound, as people tried to steer back up to GA-400/northbound as an alternate.
The old Atlanta traffic axiom holds true again: take out one road, paralyze a few others.
The major delays continued past morning rush hour, inevitably making many people late for mid-morning appointments. Reporter Veronica Harrell said the scene did not clear until around 11:30 a.m.
Miles of delays for hours. A tree truck crashes. An extended cleanup. Hardly any room to move equipment or passersby. It is just another day in the I-285/GA-400 work zone and another reminder of how much care that driving there requires. One mistake not only dirties that area, but has resounding effects elsewhere.
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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