Major highway collapse shows Atlanta’s overreliance on roads

Traffic continues to back up in the Piedmont Heights and Lindbergh areas of Atlanta as drivers are rerouted around the section of Insterstate 85 that closed following a bridge collapse. (© Henry Taylor)

Thousands of commuters can personally attest to Atlanta’s dependence on roads after a major highway overpass caught fire and collapsed during peak rush hour Thursday. While fortunately there were no reported injuries or fatalities, the aftermath of the fire and subsequent bridge collapse has resulted in traffic-snarled streets and raised concerns about how Atlantans will get around their city for the foreseeable future. 

It also underscores the need for greater resiliency in Atlanta’s transportation system. Like the snow storm that shut down Atlanta’s roads in 2014, the bridge collapse serves as a reminder that our over-reliance of roads puts us at risk if those roads cease to function.

Sections of Interstate 85, one of Atlanta’s major highways that approximately 250,000 cars pass through every day, have been closed until further notice, with estimates that the repair could take weeks or months to complete.

"This is about as serious a transportation crisis as we can imagine," Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told reporters yesterday. "My message to all of you is get your MARTA [Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority] maps out."

To serve commuters seeking alternative ways in which to get around the city, MARTA has increased service throughout the metro area with extended hours and additional staff.

Atlantans have clearly demonstrated their appetite for greater investment in transit. Last year, City of Atlanta residents approved the most significant funding increase for MARTA in the system’s history. The bridge’s collapse underscores the need for smart investments that expand on these types of transportation choices and increase meaningful access to transit.

“This is a perfect example for why Atlanta can no longer be beholden to its highways,” said Senior Attorney Brian Gist. “This kind of catastrophic event underscores the need for a Plan B for the region—a robust set of transportation choices that don’t involve driving.”

More News

Virginia governor proposes $733 million in new funds for environment

Today, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam proposed a budget that includes $733 million in new funding for the environment, clean energy, and environ...

“No action” at Superfund site not acceptable

A community in eastern North Carolina is taking action after news that a Superfund site in their neighborhood will be left as-is. “It is imperat...

Proposed federal energy rollbacks threaten renewable energy growth

This week, SELC filed comments on behalf of eighteen organizations across the Southeast opposing proposed rollbacks to clean energy policies at t...

TVA to terminate its popular payback program for going solar

You know the deal. When a household with rooftop solar panels produces more energy than it can use, it sends the excess back to the grid, and man...

N.C. Governor urges federal action for wild wolves

As federal officials abandon their obligations to wild red wolves, North Carolina’s governor weighed in this week with a letter to key officials...

Attorney Hannah Coman appointed to Virginia board on clean energy

Attorney Hannah Coman was studying political science at North Carolina’s Davidson College when she first started thinking about climate change, a...

More Stories