Atlanta traffic woes worsen as other major highways take hits

I-20 West near Atlanta buckled on Monday after an underground explosion, putting further pressure on an Atlanta road system already taxed by the close of I-85 following a recent bridge collapse. (© Henry Taylor)

Over the weekend, several Atlanta residents voiced their concerns in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the city’s lack of transportation options in light of the I-85 bridge collapse.

State Senator Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), who proposed legislation in 2016 that would have allowed residents in Fulton and DeKalb counties to approve a half-percent sales tax for investment in transit had it passed, described how the recent events have fortified his dedication to improving transportation infrastructure statewide.

“In light of the recent collapse of one of the state’s main transportation arteries, it is more important now than ever before that we bring together Georgia’s transit authorities and agencies to work as a unified body to develop and execute a plan in order to be prepared for whatever may happen in the future,” Beach wrote.

But just as drivers were adjusting to their new alternative routes this week, several more unexpected problems with Atlanta’s central highways occurred on Monday.

An early morning tractor-trailer accident resulting in a hazardous waste spill on the Downtown Connector brought traffic to a standstill for several hours in the heart of the city during morning rush hour.

Around noon, an underground gas line exploded during maintenance, causing a huge swath of I-20 West to buckle. While the Georgia Department of Transportation was able to repair the road by early Tuesday morning, these incidents have compounded metro Atlanta’s lack of comprehensive transit coverage and lack of a regionally-integrated transit system.

City leaders and elected officials have increasingly called on Atlanta residents to use public transit but, for many, hopping on the bus or subway is not an option.

According to a 2011 report by the Brookings Institution, only 21 percent of jobs in metro Atlanta are accessible within a 90-minute transit trip, and only 37 percent of working age adults have access to transit service. For the majority of Atlantans, taking transit is not realistic because there is no transit service near their homes, their workplaces, or both.

“Without a more robust transit system, we don’t have transportation choices or a viable alternative to driving,” said SELC Senior Attorney Brian Gist. “These events also underscore the need to invest in transit service all the time, not just when a crisis strikes.”


Read the opinion pieces on the I-85 bridge collapse in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

I-85 collapse reinforces need for action to improve commutes

Atlanta transit needs some visionaries

‘Carmageddon’ predictions usually don’t come to pass

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