I-85 Reopens But Atlanta Traffic Continues


May 30, 2017

Everyone who lives in the Atlanta area knows that traffic can be brutal, even on a good day. People lamented the I-85 collapse as the straw that would break the camel's back and rejoiced when the span reopened. Apparently, the novelty wore off quickly. Traffic has returned to its regular pre-fire gridlock, in the same spots. So, despite the Georgia Department of Transportation's (GDOT) excellent efforts, in conjunction with the contractor hired to complete the project, to finish rebuilding the bridge in 6 weeks, little has changed from before. However, commuters may yet find a bright spot in the dark cloud of Metropolitan Atlanta traffic. The collapse and reconstruction of I-85 have people talking about traffic issues and has caught the attention of the Georgia legislature.

The state of Georgia plans on spending approximately $85 billion on infrastructure until 2040. The Georgia legislature plans on spending all of that taxpayer money constructing 963 miles of new highway on major arteries, 93 miles of new mass transit lines, the rebuilding of 22 interstate interchanges, and building 13 new interstate interchanges.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, traffic will only get worse in the meantime, and all of the money dedicated to road building will not improve the traffic problem. Experts agree that the population of Atlanta and its surrounding communities will grow as will the need for expanded infrastructure. Officials anticipate that the population of Metropolitan Atlanta will swell by another 2.4 million people. The new road construction is designed to meet the demands of a growing population and not cure traffic ailments. As a motorist in the Atlanta area, due to traffic congestion, you can expect the average speed of a moving vehicle to drop, commute times to increase, and to waste more gasoline while idling in stop and go traffic.

Funding for these projects must come from somewhere. The state of Georgia cannot exclusively rely on federal money. Therefore, the state has raised taxes on gasoline to increase revenue for infrastructure funding. Additionally, counties have added taxes to meet increasing transportation costs.

Atlanta's reputation for miserable traffic is no longer a regional secret. A recent study of trucking routes demonstrated that the Spaghetti Junction, which is the interchange between I-85 and I-285, is the worst in the country. The study examined 250 areas in which freight travel was significant. Another study showed that Atlanta's traffic congestion was the fourth worst in the country only behind cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Some people took those findings to be a good thing. One expert claimed that traffic congestion can mean that an area is economically viable or even thriving and is not necessarily a sign of poor infrastructure.

Still, many commuters lament wasting their lives away in their cars. Sitting in traffic for two hours or more per day can take a toll. Living life in a traffic jam will likely increase anxiety, anger, and frustration among drivers. Consequently, people are arriving at work all stressed out. Then they have to work all day, only to get more stressed out on the way home. Commuters should find ways of relieving the stress inherent in bad commutes. Some people use technology to decrease their stress, while others chose to uproot and move closer to their jobs. Still, the average commuter spends 52 hours per year in stop and go traffic driving in the Atlanta area. That statistic does not account for the rest of the time the person is traveling at or around normal speeds.

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Sources: Cited within.

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