ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
50°
Broken Clouds
H 74° L 54°
  • cloudy-day
    50°
    Current Conditions
    Broken Clouds. H 74° L 54°
  • cloudy-day
    68°
    Afternoon
    Partly Cloudy. H 74° L 54°
  • clear-day
    71°
    Evening
    Mostly Sunny. H 74° L 54°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb news on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

    One assumption about traffic reporters is that all of us fly in a helicopter. In fact, most — almost all — do not. Smilin’ Mark McKay, Ashley Frasca, and I are the only airborne traffic reporters left in Atlanta. McKay is in the WSB Skycopter each morning drive and I take flight in the afternoons. Frasca has recently gotten the chance to fill in for us, as she gets the feel of both looking at traffic from above and arranging and leading the WSB Triple Team Traffic reports for the rest of the team on the ground. » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: WSB Triple Team Traffic App helps navigate commute But none of us has a pilot’s license. We have a rotation of pilots, led by our Monday-through-Thursday stalwart Bob Howdy, a former police officer who prefers that pseudonym. And we carry a videographer on each flight, Brett Barnhill, who has the responsibility of providing a feed that all four TV news stations in Atlanta use. This cross-pollination allows us to stay airborne, but this balance with the needs of TV stations also can influence where we fly. I recently got a question from a WSB listener and viewer about how we decide where to go. I had not explained that in a while, so I found it a worthy topic for this column. The pilot has the ultimate say in where we fly. If they have to avoid busy airspaces around airports or cannot lift off in bad weather, that is their call. Regardless of how bad the weather is, they always drive in and make that call from the hangar at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport. There are so many stimuli to consider as a pilot that we would have no way as reporters of doing that job simultaneously. We do traffic every six minutes and they carry in their hands life or death; we “let” the pilots fly. When TV stations have special video requests or if we find something that the other stations want, Barnhill has to check with his producer on the ground to make sure to stay at those scenes long enough. If, say, I am ready to move to another problem, we cannot go until Barnhill is cleared. Balancing the demands he receives with what we want for News 95.5/AM750 WSB makes both of our jobs harder, but the reward of flying is worth the pause. All else being equal — i.e., when we do not have to wait for TV — we are a traffic helicopter. And that is more than 90% of the time. So we simply fly up and down the interstates when there aren’t any big wrecks or news stories that alter our routes. We generally do not go south of I-20, because Hartsfield-Jackson’s airspace is so wide. We have to make such a wide route to fly to McDonough or Fairburn that going that way isn’t worth the time cost, unless there is a big problem. In this past week, however, we have flown to the south side multiple times for different traffic issues. » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: When traffic is stopped and you need to go We try to make our decisions to maximize our time flying over interstates, in hopes that we discover something new. Finding a crash that we didn’t already know about in the WSB 24-Hour Traffic Center “pays” for the whole two-hour ride in the Skycopter. We take the airborne advantage seriously and want to leverage it to help Atlanta commuters to the greatest extent. Earlier this month, we flew over a wreck during PM drive on I-85/northbound at Jimmy Carter Blvd. It took forever to clear, and the Traffic Team had a live ground shot of it on the WSB Jam Cam. But we stayed over it to get more detail and see the impact on surrounding roads. We noticed that commuters heavily underutilized Oakbrook Pkwy. as an alternate and started telling traffic to go there. Observing small details like that or something in a wreck that might make the clean-up last longer are the added value we can still give. And that is value that automated traffic apps still do not offer. Common sense is a great human trait. With technology becoming smarter and more superfluous, we tailor our flight paths differently. If we know that the Traffic Team has a good feel on a wreck without us flying over it, we don’t waste the fuel going there. We try to maximize our advantage. News helicopters generally fly a la carte to stories, whereas the WSB Skycopter flies for a couple of hours each morning and afternoon drive. Some days are very humdrum, but others see major problems. In a city with traffic jams like ours, WSB knows the importance of staying airborne in the Skycopter. In this time of automation, we have seen news organizations wave white flags for traffic reporting. They outsource it to bigger companies that assign one reporter to five stations and who just read crashes. We cover multiple stations in the WSB Traffic Center, but they are all local and we do it with the best tools and the most expertise in the city. We know your ride is important and we want the information you need to come at you constantly on radio, TV, online, on social media, and on the Triple Team Traffic Alerts App. The WSB Traffic Team is still on offense against Atlanta gridlock, and the WSB Skycopter is a huge weapon.  » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: Residential cost of GA-400 expansion illustration of bigger conundrum 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.
  • Atlanta’s population is booming, as evidenced by, well, many things. The crowd swell keeps this weekly column topical, as more residents slowly commute locally and more freight uses Atlanta as the transportation hub that it is. Sandy Springs residents recently learned the cost of expanding the infrastructure to fit these demands. » RELATED: Hit the brakes on transit expansion? Gwinnett voters to decide GDOT announced two weeks ago the need for the land where 19 homes sit on Northgreen Drive, in order to expand GA-400 by two lanes in each direction. Northgreen sits just a football field-or-so to the west of GA-400, as it runs off of Spalding Drive. The optics of this look a bit worse for GDOT, as the addition to GA-400 will be Express Lanes - A.K.A. toll lanes. Those always are polarizing. 'We are entering the right of way-acquisition process,' GDOT spokesperson Natalie Dale explained on the March 4th 'The Mark Arum Show' on News 95.5/AM750 WSB. Dale said that this is different than and precedes eminent domain. In fact, Dale told Arum that both federal and state laws outline a specific process that GDOT must follow, before eminent domain even comes into play. “We are entering a negotiation with these property owners to negotiate a sale of their property.” Dale said that the government can exercise eminent domain only if the homeowners refuse the offers. “It is one of the harder things that we have to do; we don’t have to do it a lot. I can’t imagine what it would be like for someone to come to me and tell me they need my home. When we design these projects originally we look to avoid any circumstance like this. Beyond that, we look to mitigate it and then to minimize the impact, so if we only had to take part of the property, and then mitigate it if we have to take it all.” Dale said GDOT does not enjoy making these hard choices. “And I think that’s sort of a misconception — that this is something that we do without feeling and we just do.” In this case, Dale said it is absolutely necessary. “We want it to be part of an ongoing Express Lanes system in the metro area,” Dale explained. New such lanes along I-285, I-85, and GA-400 would be double and separate in each direction. They would not be reversible like the lanes along I-75 on both sides of town. The GA-400 lanes would go from I-285 to McFarland Pkwy. and the I-285 lanes would reside in all directions anywhere north of I-20. Construction for the GA-400 lanes will not begin until around 2021 and may not conclude until 2024. » RELATED: North metro Atlanta mayors propose east-west transit plan Dale and Arum discussed how the I-285/GA-400 corridor, an area already carved up for the new interchange GDOT is building, is chock full of both businesses and residences. “You have some pretty densely-populated residential communities that are set up alongside of the interstate — not a great scenario for avoiding trying to take property,” Dale said. This, again, brings up a real problem for the desirable living places in Atlanta. More people bring more traffic. More people galvanize a need for more housing. More traffic means a need for bigger roads. The construction of bigger roads sometimes interferes with said housing. And an increase in people brings the increased need for commercial areas. And so on and so on. As tastes and demands have changed, the “live, work, play” concept has made popular both condos and townhomes that are near both public transit and places to, well, do life. Compressing living spaces in convenient areas can free up more room for development and roads and decrease traffic. On Arum’s show, Dale quickly outlined GDOT’s Major Mobility Investment Program, a cadre of 11 projects statewide that aim to decrease traffic congestion by 5% by 2030. That’s a 5% decrease statewide, not just in those 11 zones, so the improvements are significant. But they come not only at a significant monetary cost, but possibly a residential one. Looking ahead, the idea of traditional, spread-out subdivisions in highly populated areas works against the efficient expansion of roads, highways and mass transit. Just as the car culture must change at least slightly, so must residential culture. This isn’t a call to action for all situations. But this notion is something to consider in both city-planning and life-planning moving forward in Metro Atlanta.  » RELATED: Federal budget deal allows Georgia DOT to catch up on road work 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.
  • Don’t grab the smelling salts; you’ve dealt with this news before, Uptowners. Beginning Monday, Peachtree Street/Road just northwest of I-85 will see intermittent lane closures during daytime hours until as late as the early fall. Before turning beat red and stringing together four-letter words and gerunds about the dysfunctional government, consider the reasoning. These are not closures for hanging and painting big “PEACHTREE” letters and arches on the I-85 bridge, or fixing the sewer and then fixing the fix, or for an unauthorized crane that then broke, or for the construction of private buildings. Georgia Department of Transportation spokesperson Natalie Dale explained the project. » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: Innocuous turn could save a ton of time in Midtown “The focus of this project is a utility pole safety program,” Dale told News 95.5/AM750 WSB news director Chris Camp. Dale said the project is a phase in the Clear Roadside Program (CRP), where GDOT works with various utility companies to move utility poles farther back from the edges of the roads. “We look at corridors that have a high rate of drivers leaving the roadway and hitting these utility poles.” Both the public and private sector pick up the tab. “We look to fund a program that is 50% funded by the Georgia Department of Transportation and 50% by the utility companies, to move these poles away from the road ways and create a safer clear zone.” The premise is simple: GDOT and, in this case, Georgia Power identify places where poles are very close to the road. By moving back, say, a road of streetlights, drivers have a higher margin of error. “If you fell asleep or weren’t paying attention and ran off the road, you’d be able to correct back onto the road before you hit a pole,” Dale explained, noting that GDOT and Georgia Power have done this on Northside Drive at Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway in northwest Atlanta. Dale said that crews need one to two days to move a pole back far enough. Initially, this project will focus on Peachtree between Deering Road and Collier Road. A cursory look at Google Maps shows at least a few dozen utility poles in that half-mile stretch. For sure, the project will cause intermittent lane closures, but Dale said those closures could expand to a bigger stretch on Peachtree. The CRP will continue to meet to decide the sections of Peachtree — and elsewhere — that most need these pole push backs. » RELATED: Lanes reopen after I-285 sinkhole repaired on the Southside The hours of work are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Dale wants to remind drivers that these, “are not full lane closures, they are intermittent lane closures on certain sections.” And the contract for the work allows for the minimum pain inflicted on the midday commute. “It would only be on the north side or the south side at a time, so you’re not going to have lanes closed on the north and the southbound at the same time.” Officials are still finalizing some parts of the project, but Dale said that these pole shifts cannot happen overnight. “It is safest for the Georgia Power crews and for the general public for these closures to be done during the daylight hours.” Do not discount the cost of labor to pay people to work overnight, as well. The contract allows for the project to last until November, but builds in possible weather delays. Essentially, November is a worst-case scenario. “It’s not outside the realm of possibility that this may be finished much sooner,” Dale said. So as some of you prepare to stew and simmer over crawling traffic on Peachtree — as many of my co-workers (and I) will — Dale said to remember the main reason both GDOT and Georgia Power are beginning such an undertaking. “The end result is to create a safer atmosphere and possibly save someone’s life down the road and we think that is well worth it.” » RELATED: Georgia Legislature passes school bus safety bill 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.
  • In this space two weeks ago and in AJC transportation writer David Wickert’s late January column, we agreed that MARTA’s reputation was at least partially on the line by how it operated during Super Bowl 53. Super Bowl week was a complicated one for Atlanta’s bus and rail service, but judging by the traffic flow and the positive reviews of Atlanta from out-of-town visitors, MARTA seems to have performed very well on the world’s stage. And this is despite several big obstacles along the way. » RELATED: MARTA was ready for its Super Bowl close-up The biggest problem MARTA faced was completely out of its control. A fire near the tracks close to the busy Brookhaven Station caused big service interruptions Saturday evening. But it wasn’t just one brush fire on another property that forced MARTA to set up a bus bridge between the Lenox, Brookhaven, Chamblee, and Doraville rail stops. “A Rail Supervisor had all trains use the track farthest away from the [initial] fire,” MARTA spokesperson Stephany Fisher told the AJC. So, the trains were still running at that point. “That Supervisor then reported a second fire, again, not on MARTA property, and ordered all rail service through that portion of the Gold Line suspended.” Firefighters ran out of water fighting the fires, which then caused the conflagrations to rekindle as they searched for another water source. Fisher said this caused the bus bridge to last an hour and five minutes, with seven northbound trains stopped at Lenox and their passengers sent to buses. MARTA was feeling the burden of not only its busiest travel day in decades — 270,000 riders, which MARTA said is more than double that of a normal Saturday — but also a shortage in bus drivers, some of which were still calling out sick in a union dispute. But MARTA was prepared for that also, Fisher said. “MARTA experienced delays on some bus routes because of the bus operator sick-out. Supervisors were pulled in to operate buses to minimize the impact to customers. We were not anticipating a significant increase in bus ridership surrounding the Super Bowl since the majority of our customers accessed the event venues on the rail system. The sick-out did not have an impact on rail service,” Fisher said, adding that operators from other Metro Atlanta bus systems provided buses and workers to help with last Saturday’s emergency bus bridge. » RELATED: Super Bowl 53 Wrap: How did Atlanta do? While people were upset by the delays, the whole thing could have gone much worse. If MARTA had not staffed up, the rail system would not have been able to handle the crowds even without an emergency. If the agency hadn’t collaborated with CobbLinc, Gwinnett Transit, and SRTA — as they are doing in a broader way with the new ATL transit system — then they wouldn’t have been able to quickly implement a plan to move those commuters to alternate routes. The Atlanta Streetcar, now run by MARTA, has often been lightly used. But Fisher said that was a different story last weekend: “The Streetcar saw heavy ridership the entire three-day Super Bowl weekend, with rail cars filled to capacity on almost every trip.” But it had its own difficulties. “On Saturday night, service was suspended when cars and overflow crowds turned away from Centennial Olympic Park filled the streets, making it impossible for the Streetcar to move safely through the downtown area,” Fisher said. We saw those hordes on the WSB Jam Cams all weekend along Marietta St. and Centennial Olympic Park Dr. Driving down there was nearly impossible; moving a streetcar through there would seem unreasonable as well. Fisher said that service resumed by 8 a.m. Sunday. MARTA actually saw significantly fewer riders on Super Bowl Sunday — an estimated 155,000 — than on Saturday. And Mass Exodus Monday saw 161,000 use the rail system. The security-line waits at the fully-staffed Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport saw many more delays than did MARTA. Atlanta traffic and transit endured a million visitors, double the amount of MARTA riders, tens of thousands more air travelers, a winter weather scare, a bus driver sick-out, a fire near the tracks, and several big game-related road closures. Locals either stayed away or rode the rails. Atlanta traffic was light, considering the large crowds in town. And MARTA game-planned enough to zig and zag with the problems. Atlanta gets at least a solid B, if not better, for how it handled travelers on Super Bowl week. And MARTA was a big part of that.  » RELATED: Opinion: MARTA: Playing hard outside M-B Stadium 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.
  • 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. » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: MARTA and your transportation keys to Super Bowl 53 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.» RELATED: Georgia DOT opens up its playbook to keep Super Bowl traffic moving 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!  » RELATED: SUPER BOWL TRAFFIC: Peachtree, other streets face closures on eve of big game 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.
  • My late father pointed out to me years ago that Atlanta, in his opinion, has an obvious number one industry: transportation. From the world’s busiest airport, to the lines of freight traffic in the form of tractor trailers, to the convergence of rail lines, Atlanta is most definitely a hub for industry to move. You may know our fair city used to be called Terminus. » RELATED: Super Bowl 53: Lyft offering half-off rides to MARTA, other deals Fittingly, traffic is routinely bad in this transportation hub. Another big business for this town is conventions and conferences, with the Georgia World Congress Center and hotels routinely hosting large commercial gatherings and events. These two fields converge for the 53rd rendition of the world’s largest football game on the spiffy field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Super Bowl LIII marks Atlanta’s first swing at hosting the big game in 18 years. Yes, Atlanta’s last Super Bowl is old enough to be a senior in high school. Fortunately, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Georgia World Congress Center, State Farm Arena, Centennial Olympic Park, and many other downtown Atlanta destinations are right on the MARTA rail line or very close to it. In fact, Mercedes-Benz Stadium is among the most accessible-to-transit stadiums in the entire NFL. MARTA may actually be the fulcrum upon which this major event is considered a success. Our transportation beat writer David Wickert wrote a masterful piece recently on how much is at stake for MARTA these next few days. Not only are the nation’s eyes on Atlanta, but the transit program’s reputation with its own potential users is very much on trial. In a few weeks, Gwinnett citizens vote on allowing MARTA into the county for the first time. MARTA knows this and has planned accordingly and has done so better than they did for the College Football National Championship Game in 2018. Wickert chronicled how trains after the Alabama-Georgia game last January saw extreme delays, with commuters packed on platforms at the stadium and Five Points stops. MARTA admitted later that they were understaffed then, but they had much better results following the December SEC Championship game. That Alabama-Georgia matchup served as a dress rehearsal for Sunday’s big show. MARTA has set aside $2 million to deploy hundreds of extra staff to run trains until 1 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday and then 24-hour continuous service from 4 a.m. Friday through 2 a.m. next Tuesday. Bus routes near Mercedes-Benz Stadium will also run 24-hour service in that same time frame. MARTA will deploy hundreds of ambassadors at stations to point people in the right directions and to sell Breeze cards. MARTA even has a commemorative Super Bowl LIII Breeze card. MARTA will also have employees at each train entrance to assist with loading. This will be extremely important at peak times, when waiting crowds turn into slow-churning mosh pits. MARTA will be there to open the pit. » RELATED: Super Bowl 53: Some road closures already in place, more to come Trains will also run more often, as will the Atlanta Streetcar. And fares will not change. One MARTA bus or train trip is $2.50 and riders should buy at least two at once, so they don’t have to reload their Breeze cards twice. If users plan on getting on and off the train multiple times per day, day passes are $9, two day passes are $14, three days are $16, and four days are $19. However, most events are within walking distance of each other, so more than two trips per day may not be necessary. There is a one-stop-shop site for all things transit for the Super Bowl: http://martasb53.com/. Driving toward Downtown Atlanta events between, say, Friday and late Sunday is doing to be a disaster. Traffic may actually not be as awful as expected, but parking prices and availability will be ridiculous. As the week wears on, more streets will close near the epicenter of activity. So don’t plan on cruising down Northside Drive right up to the stadium, in other words. The downside of this Super Bowl is that our beloved Falcons are not one of the teams. But our hometown’s performance is very much front and center. MARTA has had its difficulties, but, as Wickert pointed out, Minneapolis overcame a huge power outage that knocked out their trains for last year’s Super Bowl. Twin Cities’ Metro Transit had bus bridges in place immediately to get people to the stadium. MARTA has to have the same scrappyness and preparedness to be able to jump off the blocks when the inevitable problem arises. If an ice storm hits Atlanta, as it did during the 2000 Super Bowl, the transit system will see even more pressure and bus service could see interruptions. The pressure was heavy on the shoulders of the Atlanta Falcons two years ago in Houston. One could argue that the pressure on MARTA and other Atlanta infrastructure components will be greater this week. Let’s hope Atlanta doesn’t turn the ball over in the red zone. Judging by the good results at the SEC Championship, it will not.  » RELATED: Super Bowl 53: A major disruption or boon for Atlanta? 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.
  • Atlanta has lost arguably the last untapped part of the Perimeter. Through almost 15 years of reporting on Atlanta commutes for WSB Triple Team Traffic, I have seen I-285 have a mostly consistent pattern of slow zones. The worst parts of rush hours on I-285 have mainly been north of I-20 - and those still are the slowest zones. I-285 south of I-20 - and especially between I-75 and I-85 near the Airport - has normally (barring any wrecks) been a pristine wilderness of wide open traffic. But changes in the last few months have scarred this beautiful frontier. » RELATED: Atlanta preps for Super Bowl traffic I-285 through and around the Airport’s fifth runway tunnel has become dependably slow during PM drive in recent times. I-285/westbound (Inner Loop) is regularly very heavy from just west of I-75 in Clayton County over to I-85 in south Fulton. And likewise, I-285/eb (Outer Loop) is slow working over to the busy I-75 interchange. Just to the east of that, I-285/eb has started to slow on random evenings trying to ramp onto Jonesboro Road/Highway 54. Combine these changes with the increased volume on I-285 in both directions south of I-20 in DeKalb - and with that weird November spike in terrible wrecks in that area - and I-285 south of the “I-20 Equator” can no longer be taken for granted that it moves well. But why have these conditions changed? That blame is far less definite to assign than the delays are noticeable. For one, if conditions on I-85 and I-75 are bad, they adversely affect I-285. A recent Gridlock Guy piece covered how hard accessing I-285 can be, but this is the opposite effect. This also shows how fragile interstate conditions are. Most freeways have normal rush hour delay zones. But I-85 between Newnan and I-285 and the aforementioned area of I-285 have not. They really only get slow when they have wrecks or when the other freeway does and those delays slow them. I-85 may not have a normal jam each day, but the volume level southwest of town is high enough that any small problem jams it even worse than the same kind of problem would, say, on I-85 in Gwinnett. This characteristic is probably a big contributor to the changes on I-285. Population increases have simply brought more traffic into most areas. That pressure increase isn’t as obvious on I-285 in Dunwoody, because the traffic there is already terrible. But the downgrade from speed limit to slow is far more noticeable, which is why I-285 on the south side is now part of the doldrums. The “fragile effect” is in play almost daily here: there are far more factors almost constantly that pollute this traffic ecosystem on I-285. The economic boom of the last few years also, naturally, has taken its toll on the Perimeter. This portion of I-285 sees a large number of tractor trailers, which move slower and take up more room than other vehicles. And there are more big rigs not just because of the good economy, but because of the increased commerce in the newly-deepened Port of Savannah. So more people and more trucks seem to be the main factors in the lost frontier on I-285. There also seems to simply be more traffic at the Airport to stir into the equation. But as much hand-wringing as can be done about the how and the why, the important factor is the what. There is no doubt that traffic on I-285 anywhere south of I-20 is much worse now. So plan your commute or Airport trip accordingly. Tune in to News 95.5/AM-750 WSB and Channel 2 Action News before leaving home and keep 95.5FM on in the car. And also download our Triple Team Traffic Alerts App and leave it running in the background on your phone as you drive to hear our automatic audio alerts about problems in the area.  So, cheers to I-285 near the Airport. We enjoyed you while you were good. But, alas, you are now just like every other Atlanta freeway.  » RELATED: Atlanta traffic among worst in the world, study finds 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.
  • This may be a niche topic, but electric scooters were in the headlines last week in Atlanta. The Atlanta City Council passed new regulations on the scooters, adding both some structure and complication to this easy and unilateral mode of transport. » RELATED: Atlanta City Council lays down law on scooters Pending Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ signature on the ordinance, riders will now no longer be able to ride on sidewalks or go above 15 mph. They also have to limit per-scooter-ridership to one person and cannot use cellular devices while operating the scooters. Scooter companies like Bird, Lime, and JUMP will also have to pay at least $12,000 per year in permit fees to the city. No one should be surprised that the city wants a cut of this burgeoning industry. The most disruptive part of the new set of rules is the requirement for scooters to stay off of pedestrian sidewalks. They can still use bike lanes and multi-use paths like the BeltLine. But forcing riders without helmets to putter along the side of the road, right next to traffic, and without helmets seems like a recipe for injuries. Riders partially have themselves to thank for this. There have been quite a few complaints about inconsiderate scooter riders putting those on foot in danger by zooming close by or running into them. This sounds similar to skiers’ complaints about snowboarders doing just the same on the slopes (guilty). A speed disparity and a recklessness create the need for separate lanes. » RELATED: Uber joins e-scooter war in Atlanta This newest transportation fad sees riders in a layer between cyclists and walkers. They can go quite a bit faster than pedestrians, but not as fast as bicycles. So Atlanta has moved scooters to the few bicycle lanes the city has. But cyclists are more committed to their longer trips and can go faster than the flippant, on-off scooter riders. That coexistence just doesn’t seem smooth. Scooter-riders, this ordinance should be a wake up call about an aspect of this technology that you love. The most charming part about scooting is how disposable using one can be. But you need to start treating scooter-riding as you would driving a car. You need to be considerate of those around you (on the roads and sidewalks). And you need to be extra-alert, as your foot-shuffling will now be often in shared lanes with automobiles. The city ordinance didn’t address the problem of scooters being left in random places all over. If users continue to leave their small, rented rides haphazardly on sidewalks, rules on that are sure to follow. The new Atlanta electric scooter rules seem to mean well and should help keep pedestrians safer. But with scooters now closer to traffic and with riders not wearing helmets, there could be some major problems. Another transportation mode is well entrenched among us - heads-up.  » RELATED: Athens mulls law banning electric scooters as hundreds are impounded 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.
  • As pellets of information whiz by our eyes simultaneously and at breakneck speed, retaining even just the most important bits becomes difficult. The fact that most of this information resides within a few clicks or thumb flicks makes us less reliant on our ability to remember. The speed of the news cycle pushes stories in and out of sight so quickly that we forget which celebrities died or that such-and-such politician had the exact opposite stance just two months ago. This same cognitive sloppiness applies not just to citizens trying to follow traffic laws, but also sometimes to the agencies tasked with enforcing them. » RELATED: What Georgia law says you should do when a school bus stops Rules regarding school bus safety changed on both the user and the enforcement sides on July 1, 2018 in Georgia. House Bill 978 began allowing agencies to catch school-zone speeders with cameras on buses, a provision met with heavy resistance. The compromise that allowed this automated enforcement loosened the restrictions on when vehicles can pass stopped buses in the opposite direction. The revised law eliminates the requirement of a raised or divided median for oncoming vehicles to be able to pass stopped school buses that are loading or unloading. The compromise eases the “median restriction” to including a turn lane. In other words, a turn lane now counts as a dividing median for the purposes of oncoming vehicles being able to advance past a bus in loading mode. As we talked about in an August Gridlock Guy column on the issue, this new freedom is not one motorists should take lightly. Sure, buses only unload students on the same side of the road as bus stops. But drivers in all surrounding areas should use absolute caution. One small distraction could cause an error that puts our most precious citizens in danger. And any relaxation in bus-passing does not change the restriction on speeding. Remember how easy speeding is to enforce under this new law. » RELATED: Georgia’s top lawyer confirms fears about change to school bus law But enforcement is only as smooth as the enforcers. A friend who will go unnamed told me that they got an automated ticket for passing a stopped bus in the opposite direction — when they had a turn lane in between them. One of the new automated cameras caught her and the jurisdiction mailed her the ticket. She went to court to fight the ticket and actually used the aforementioned August Gridlock Guy column as proof that she did not break the law. The judge threw out the ticket. Another unnamed friend got a similar ticket and wasn’t so lucky and had to pay. So the police and courts need to get on the same page as the law. Motorists do also. A former WSB co-worker, Noelle Stettner, emailed the WSB 24-Hour Traffic Center last month with the opposite problem. She said she observes motorists on Highway 9 in Roswell and Sandy Springs stopping when they do not have to. They either are not aware of their new freedom or they are afraid to pass someone else that has erroneously stopped. Stettner wasn’t just annoyed by the unnecessary stopping, but legitimately concerned that stopping in error could increase rear-end crashes. An increase of crashes in a sensitive zone near a bus is never a good thing. The biggest ambiguity in the new law about passing school buses is not in the language itself. The law allows for oncoming vehicles to pass stopped buses, as long as there is at least a turn lane separating the two sides of the road. Period. The ambiguity therein is in how well both motorists and law enforcement are aware of the rule. If you get a ticket in error, look up the bill (or, apparently, this column) and go to court and plead your case. And make sure you aren’t speeding, or the case is moot anyway.  » RELATED: Why a small change in Georgia law could create danger for students 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.
  • This is a scenario that often unfolds in the hours of gridlock that thousands happen upon in holiday travel. I-75 on the south side, for example, may have bumper-to-bumper traffic in either direction for 20 miles. There may not even be a cause for the jam, but traffic is sitting still. Suddenly, that Cracker Barrel sweet tea follows gravity’s nudge and lands at the end of the line. You’re miles away from the next exit and traffic still hasn’t moved. » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: If you play the traffic blame game, play it right This may seem like an elementary problem that requires a simple solution. Most people would say to hold it or to pull over and go. But neither choice is that simple. First, waiting to relieve one’s self is only a true option if there is an end to the traffic jam in sight. But despite the niftiness of “ETA” features on GPS apps and devices, those fly out of the window when a freeway is completely shut down. Just last Wednesday, a tractor trailer fire and ensuing cleanup shut down almost all of I-75/southbound in Spalding County for hours. This hullabaloo in the middle of the post-Christmas exodus created more than two-hour delays. It also created bad enough northbound delays that a total stranger Facebooked me to tell me that people were in fact pulling over to use the woods. Even though I-75/northbound was open and technically southbound had one lane open, people had no idea when they would reach the next exit with bathrooms. And the further one gets from Metro Atlanta, the longer the distances are between exits. But before bonding with nature, there are a few things to consider. First, most states and cities have some form of public indecency laws. People have gotten popped with tickets and even felonies for public urination in the wrong places. So if nature calls with urgency, people should make an effort to get as far out of view as possible. The best bet is to try to get to the woods. But if this conundrum occurs in an area not near some natural partitions, antsy motorists must make some sort of effort to cover themselves. People often have a fellow passenger hold up a blanket or towel and use the car door as another barrier. Not taking this effort is not only inconsiderate to those also stuck in the mess, but it could subject the lazy urinator to a ticket. Remember that whole indecency thing? » RELATED: SEE: Man busts a move during traffic jam, entertaining drivers with his dance moves Several years ago, a listener called me in the WSB Traffic Center, while stuck in a horrible holiday backup on I-85 northeast of town. The poor woman was in tears, because she really had to pee and was more than a mile away from an exit and not moving. I felt awful for her and admittedly had never taken a call about this kind of predicament. She asked if she could drive for a mile on the shoulder up to the exit or try and call the police to escort her down the shoulder. She really had to go. I told her that she was far more suited to try and pull over and go in the woods. Driving in the emergency lanes is for true emergencies. Someone driving a woman in labor to the hospital is an emergency. Rescue units rushing to a crash scene is an emergency. Emptying 20 ounces of Starbucks from one’s bladder is not. And when one car drives in the emergency lane, it invites others to do so and blocks the lane from being used for true emergencies. Don’t do that. Truckers often use empty bottles, so they do not have to pull over on long trips. I advise against this also. For one, this really only works for men. That aside, truckers are above others in traffic, so no one can see them do their business. A motorist in a regular vehicle may not cover all of their privacy bases, if they try to relieve themselves in a bottle. And then people are prone to chucking these “pee bombs” out of the window and creating nasty litter. Imagine picking these up. Gross. This thought exercise here should at least remind us all to be prepared. Keep napkins and hand sanitizer in the car, along with some snacks and water, in case a traffic RED ALERT gets us helplessly stuck. And if nature calls for desperate measures, we should execute those maneuvers with as much modesty and consideration as possible. Yes, safely pull over and go. No, don’t throw bottles out of windows or drive on the shoulders to find an exit. Happy travels and Happy New Year.  » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: Minimizing dog distractions behind the wheel 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.

News

  • Two men are accused to stealing more than $70,000 worth of musical instruments from the University of Louisville’s School of Music, WLKY reported. >> Read more trending news  Alphonso Monrew, 22, and Anthony Abrams, 52, were arrested Thursday, according to Jefferson County Jail records. Each were charged with two counts of third degree burglary and two counts of theft by unlawful taking, the television station reported. According to police, on several occasions the two men stole instruments, including a $10,000 guitar, from the university’s music school, WLKY reported. The thefts occurred over several weeks, the television station reported. All of the instruments have been recovered and will be returned to students, police said.
  • A Texas woman got an early start to celebrating her 105th birthday, joining more than 150 family members for a party at a San Antonio church, KSAT reported. >> Read more trending news  Minnie McRae, who turns 105 on Tuesday, was the guest of honor at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church on Saturday, the television station reported. McRae’s nephew, Arturo Ayala, flew from Germany to attend the party for a woman who taught him how to dance by giving him lessons in her living room, KSAT reported.  Ayala said he believes he knows the secret to his aunt’s long life 'She's never shared it, but from my relationship with her, I see her always praying and ... always reading,' Ayala told the television station.  Ayala also said McRae was very spiritual and did work with Incarnate Word. 'She's a blessing and she's a miracle,' Ayala told KSAT.
  • There will be laughing, singing, and music swinging when singer Martha Reeves receives another honor in May. >> Read more trending news  Reeves, 77, the lead vocalist of 1960s group Martha and Vandellas, will be honored by the Alabama State Council on the Arts on May 22, AL.com reported. Reeves was the singer for the group’s hits, including “Dancing in the Streets,” “Heat Wave” and “Jimmy Mack.” Reeves, a native of Eufaula, will receive Alabama’s 2019 Distinguished Artist Award. The award recognizes “a professional artist who is considered a native or adopted Alabamian and who has earned significant national acclaim for their art over an extended period,' according to the council’s website. Other recipients of the award include Jim Nabors, Fannie Flagg and George Lindsey. Vandella moved to Detroit as a child and grew up singing in church, AL.com reported. Her gospel-influenced vocals were evident in the group’s pop and rhythm and blues songs, which gave the Vandellas a string of hits on the Motown label. Reeves was inducted with the group -- Rosalind Ashford-Holmes, Annette Sterling-Helton, Lois Reeves and Betty Kelly -- into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. “Martha and the Vandellas were the Supremes’ tougher, more grounded counterpart,” the Rock Hall website says. “With her cheeky, fervent vocals, Martha Reeves led the group in a string of dance anthems that are irresistible to this day.” Reeves was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1995. 
  • A Florida deputy was arrested after an altercation at a Jacksonville nightclub, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office reported. >> Read more trending news  According to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Officer Rodney Bryant, a 5 1/2-year member of the department, was involved in a dispute Friday at Mascara's Gentlemen's Club with his girlfriend and her friend.  Bryant has been charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He has been terminated from his position in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. According to deputies, the group left the club but the dispute continued in a vehicle. This was when Bryant allegedly pulled over, opened the trunk of his vehicle and pulled out a firearm.  Bryant allegedly pointed the gun at the two women, making threats, according to the Sheriff’s Office.  They were all pulled over long enough for the girlfriend's friend to make contact with her sister, who later arrived at the scene, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The girl's sister observed Bryant with the firearm making threats and that he pointed the firearm at her, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
  • A Marine killed in action during the Vietnam War nearly 50 years ago was honored in a memorial service Saturday, and a headstone and plaque were erected at his gravesite at a South Florida cemetery, the Sun-Sentinel reported. >> Read more trending news  Private First Class Gregory Carter was killed in action Oct. 12, 1969, in the Quang Ngai province of South Vietnam, according to according to a Vietnam military casualties database on Ancestry.com. He was remembered in a service attended by nearly 200 people Saturday at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Fort Lauderdale, the Sun-Sentinel reported. “It’s like he woke up to the world again,” Carter’s brother, Anthony Owens, told the newspaper. “His life is meaningful. It means something.” “No, I did not (expect this many people). It raised our spirits, big time.” Carter laid in an unmarked grave until the Vietnam Veterans of America discovered him while searching for photographs of Vietnam veterans to place on the black granite Wall of Faces in Washington, D.C., the Sun-Sentinel reported. Carter was drafted into the Marines on July 4, 1969, when he was 19, according to the Ancestry.com database. He already had a young son and a daughter was on the way, but Carter would never know either of them, the newspaper reported. The Vietnam Veterans of America worked with the city of Fort Lauderdale and others to get Carter’s grave marker, the Sun-Sentinel reported. The organization also secured a photograph from a baseball team photograph in the Dillard High School yearbook, the newspaper reported. Gregory Carter now lies with his mother, grandparents, three siblings and other relatives at Sunset Memorial Gardens. “If you die you’re just lost until somebody thinks about you again,” Anthony Owens told the Sun-Sentinel. “So his spirit is probably all around us right now. It’s a good thing. He’s doing good.”
  • The wife of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was bitten by a rattlesnake at their Arizona home Friday, the Arizona Republic reported. >> Read more trending news  Ava Arpaio was working on her computer in her office around 10 a.m. when the snake bit her on the left foot, Joe Arpaio told the newspaper. 'She's tough. If she can put up with me for 60 years, then she can handle a snake bite,' Joe Arpaio told the Republic. Joe Arpaio, 86, said the large rattlesnake was removed by fire crews. 'Must've been a Democrat,' the longtime Republican joked to the Republic. Ava Arpaio likely will be in a hospital for 'two or three' days, her husband told the newspaper. Arpaio served as sheriff of Maricopa County for 24 years until losing re-election to Democrat Paul Penzone in 2016. The 86-year-old lawman made national news for his Tent City Jail where inmates were housed in Korean War era army tents, KSAZ reported. >> President Trump pardons Joe Arpaio Joe Arpaio was convicted of a criminal charge in July 2017 for refusing to stop traffic patrols that targeted immigrants. He was pardoned a month later by President Donald Trump.