Gridlock Guy: Celebrations, Perimeter pacing, and the construction quandary

Outfielder and pinch hitter “Eddie Ocho-Super Rosario” got a clutch hit. “Lieutenant Dans-by” Swanson helped turn a dazzling double-play to stave off a Brewers advance. Team captain “Franchise Freddie” hit a go-ahead, solo “Free-bomb” in the bottom of the 8th. Then “I Am Legend-Will Smith” and not the “Fresh Prince” version of the Braves closer showed up for the NLDS. Game four won. Series over.

The Atlanta Braves have won three more playoff series in the last two seasons than they did in the 17 seasons prior. Truist Park and the adjacent Battery about burned to the ground (metaphorically). Joc Pederson’s pearls swung as did those of many who have picked up that rally swag. That team, wounded and mediocre for two-thirds of the season. That game. That NLDS win.That didn’t seem possible in mid-July.

Follow the adrenaline out of Truist’s pearly gates and into the red-taillight River Styx that the surrounding arteries became. Elated fans had to eventually get home and groggily tackle the next work day. Tuesday’s slumber would have to wait a lot longer, however, for a crowd taking I-285 from the Cumberland area toward Sandy Springs.

As the “Word on the Street” talk show crew of Shelley Wynter, Malani Kai, and Scotty B. celebrated this win live on 95.5 WSB with news anchors Edgar Treiguts and Jennifer Griffies (and with me, for the 9 p.m. hour just after the game’s finish), Alex Williams tracked a bigger-than-expected jam hounding homeward-bound Braves fans on the Inner Loop.

“Shortly before the Braves clinched the NLDS, I saw the traffic pacing just beginning on I-285/eastbound (Inner Loop) near Roswell Road,” Williams said. He works the 4 p.m.-midnight shift in the WSB 24-Hour Traffic Center. He sees this continuous work in the Transform 285/400 work zone nightly and crews pacing traffic to install a closure or move equipment is a regular occurence. “The pacing can last up to 30-45 minutes, but delays usually shake out quickly. Due to the added volume on I-285 leaving the Braves game, a five-mile delay between Riverside Drive and Ashford Dunwoody Road lasted over an hour,” Williams explained.

Williams said the pacing usually happens a bit earlier in the evening than when it took place last Tuesday and drivers that normally don’t traverse this stretch at that time were not expecting it. “Being so unusual, I got several calls to the Traffic Center, as did the Channel 2 Action News Assignment Desk, wondering if there was a bad crash causing the jam. It wasn’t until between 10:30 and 11 p.m. that traffic finally returned to normal on I-285.”

Fan elation was stymied. Jubilation became anger. The balloon popped. The brake light buzzsaw cut into a near-perfect early fall night of playoff baseball.

The gut reaction here is to blame GDOT and the work crews for poor planning, just as Braves fans had their complaint-rifles aimed at the umpiring crew in the event of a Braves loss. Traffic pacing coinciding with a postseason game ending is so “Atlanta”, right? Yeah, it is. But coordinating and planning such construction maneuvers takes more than a proverbial flip of the switch.

As 95.5 WSB prepared its post-game coverage, we had three scenarios: if the Braves won before “Word on the Street” began at 9 p.m., if the Braves won after “Word on the Street” started, and if the Braves lost. I won’t share the email thread. We had to be flexible and because we are a fairly small crew with the ability to work and coordinate remotely, we could easily pivot.

Work crews just are not that nimble. Traffic pacing requires a supervisor conducting multiple units in an armada and in unison with local authorities to stop and then slowly lead traffic. That same supervisor also then has to conduct the other parts of the work crew that are either enacting a closure, moving trucks around, or even installing pieces of the structures. Many factors delay this sequence, meaning planning for and around this moving target is extremely difficult.

We have seen this complexity and been frustrated with it multiple times in this Transform 285/400 project. When GDOT is ready to open new ramps, pacing is required. When that opening is delayed, the pacing is, too. When that pacing coincides with morning drive, the anger level pegs. But predicting the exact moment of these movements is incredibly hard.

People ask why crews cannot delay road work on nights when large Braves games take place. That is a great question. But many of the same people also complain about this particular multi-year project’s completion having been delayed by over a year. Bad weather, labor and supply shortages, and issues with underground utilities are among the factors that have delayed the overhaul. Planning around every big sporting event, in addition to certain holidays, will only delay the needed improvements even more.

Some may also question the timing of the pacing; could crews not have waited until an hour after the game ended? Couldn’t they have done the rolling closure during the game? Maybe. But just as our 95.5 WSB crew had no exact idea when this four-hour-game would end, neither did anyone else. Crews also cannot pace traffic until everyone and every part is in place. And if they wait until too late in the evening, then the lane closures after the pacing could last past their normal 5 a.m. cutoff, thus affecting morning drive traffic. Causing rush hour delays just fills both the complaint box and the swear jar.

Road work has to happen. Fans need to pack the stands for the pivotal NLCS games at Truist Park. And, as I write this (on a Thursday morning), the Braves home schedule for the MLB semi-final hasn’t been released. Expecting work crews to plan around every whim of the unpredictable game schedule is a tough task with so many moving parts.

But perhaps the egress from the Braves’ stadium - whether a victory parade or a funeral march - should garner greater consideration from GDOT.

Regardless, there is not much excuse for getting caught in this jam. Williams and the rest of WSB Triple Team Traffic go live, around the clock on 95.5 WSB with updates. We also send out push notifications and plot audio reports that fire, on-demand when drivers running the Triple Team Traffic Alerts App drive near-enough to problems. A good rule of thumb would be to simply avoid that entire Northside Perimeter at night and take I-75/southbound into Midtown and then follow I-85/northbound. That is the alternate Williams tomahawked into his reports after that game.

The information is out there and folks should deploy it to their advantage just as Braves manager Brian Snitker uses every tool on the bench to continue our home team’s winning ways. You, too, can win traffic.

Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also hosts a traffic podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on Contact him at





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