GRIDLOCK GUY: A Tuesday of tragedy and tumult in Atlanta traffic

The drive on the Atlanta streets was particularly memorable in a bad way on Tuesday, July 27th. The day started with an hours-long crash investigation that shut a freeway for hours and PM drive was littered with a sequence of particularly head-scratching and frustrating wrecks in the same spot. And a sinkhole swallowed an SUV in between.

All of this chaos stands as a reminder of the importance of alert driving, the sheer unpredictability of Atlanta traffic, and the unforeseen, deep consequences of making mistakes behind the wheel.

The worst incident of that day in traffic unfolded just after 3 a.m. on GA-400/northbound at Holcomb Bridge Road (Exit 7). Roswell police say that 21-year-old Dahmir Rivera drove southbound in the northbound lanes and hit another car head-on, killing two passengers in the northbound vehicle. Rivera remarkably received only minor injuries in the devastating wreck.

Roswell PD is charging Rivera with two counts of vehicular homicide, reckless driving, driving under the influence, and wrong-way driving.

Life for this young driver is changing on a dime; it ended abruptly for the two in the oncoming car.

The investigation immediately shut down GA-400/nb and Roswell and Sandy Springs PD worked in conjunction to divert that outbound traffic onto Northridge (Exit 6). Lanes did not open until after 8 a.m., creating gridlock on GA-400 and many surrounding arteries.

A tree fell and shut down the main alternate, Highway 9, just north of the Chattahoochee River and just after GA-400/nb opened. Roswell PD and Roswell commuters had a rough morning.

After 2 p.m., a Midtown Atlanta couple found their SUV nose-down at about a 45-degree angle on Ponce de Leon Avenue/eastbound at Penn Avenue, just east of Piedmont Avenue. An apparent sewage issue caused a sinkhole to open in front of legendary Mary Mac’s Tea Room.

This ended up being more of a spectacle than a traffic jam, since North Ave. is right next to this as an alternate route.

After 4 p.m., a series of wrecks in South DeKalb shut down I-285/eastbound (Outer Loop) at Flat Shoals Parkway (Exit 48). The initial right lane-crash and ensuing delays caused a wreck in the left lane. Then a pickup shooting the gap in the center managed to nail the left-rear of the giant, red firetruck on scene.

Yes, that really happened. One person replied to my tweet from over the scene, calling it “some Atlanta [expletive].”

We issued a traffic RED ALERT on 95.5 WSB, as we flew over this trio of crashes.

The jams on I-285/eb stretched all the way back to I-75 in Clayton County, which sent extra traffic up into Downtown Atlanta and jammed the Downtown Connector as an alternate route.

In the backups from the initial three wrecks, two vehicles collided in the two right lanes on I-285/eb near I-675 (Exit 52). All lanes opened for all wrecks before 6 p.m. But much like the GA-400 closure, the mess on I-285 sent traffic scurrying and clogging other freeways and side streets.

In addition to the I-285 mess in Decatur, two cars hit in the two right lanes on I-85/northbound near Indian Trail Road (Exit 101) in Norcross. That crash did not move for over an hour, partly because the shoulder lane was blocked and there was no true right shoulder on which to push the crash. Those delays started before I-285 and affected those ramps onto I-85/nb.

Crazy days are not at all few and far between on Atlanta’s roads, but this past Tuesday seemed especially chaotic for a day without severe weather - or holidays - or major events. This barrage of freeway-closing, jam-inducing, life-altering trouble showcases the need to prepare before leaving on a trip and the need to check for and listen to live traffic reports during that commute, too.

The chaos also serves as yet another reminder of the dangers of distracted and reckless driving and the extreme effect on others, whether they get stuck in traffic or get injured or killed. Driving takes actual talent and demands extraordinary focus and responsibility.

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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