How the I-85 closure will affect your commute

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution April 3, 2017 10PM

    By David Wickert and Ana Santos

    As commuters adjusted their routes to compensate for the gaping hole in I-85, the sight of an empty I-85 just north of the collapse was also eerie.

    Atlanta drivers will have to endure one more night of lane closures before a popular commuter road is reopened permanently.

    Construction crews have been working to provide drivers with alternative routes to alleviate traffic congestion after a fire brought down a section of I-85 in Atlanta on Thursday.

    The Georgia Department of Transportation announced Monday morning that Piedmont Road SB and NB at I-85 is open to traffic. Authorities will close Piedmont Road at 9 p.m. Monday until 5 a.m. Tuesday for additional work.

    Piedmont Road had been closed to traffic in both directions after a massive fire brought down part of I-85 Thursday evening.

    Transportation authorities have offered drivers and commuters an updated list of road closures, detours and alternative routes:

    • I-85 northbound traffic is being diverted to Buford Spring connector for local travel only;
    • I-75/I-85 northbound traffic is being diverted to I-75NB. 17th Street is last available northbound exit prior to Brookwood split; (Read: Northbound? How to bypass the bridge collapse and return to I-85)
    • I-75SB ramp to I-85NB ramp is closed;
    • SR 400SB to I-85SB is closed. Traffic diverted to I-85NB. Sidney Marcus Blvd is last available exit;
    • I-85 SB is closed. Traffic diverted to SR 400NB. Lenox/Cheshire Bridge is last available exit;
    • Buford Spring connector southbound is open from Piedmont Road;
    • Buford Spring connector northbound is now open from Spring/West Peachtree and Peachtree Street.

    Here is an interactive map of I-85 road closures, detours and alternate routes:

    Update: Piedmont Road near I-85 remains closed Sunday evening as construction crews clean up a section of the interstate that collapsed Thursday.

    The Georgia Department of Transportation said replacing the destroyed bridge is expected to take several months.

    Update: On Saturday morning, transportation officials began allowing northbound traffic on the Connector to proceed north on I-85 to the next exit: the Buford-Spring Connector, Exit 86 (Ga. 13).

    Photo credit:  JOHN SPINK /JSPINK@AJC.COM


    ABC News 4/3/2017 PM

    Atlanta area commuters crowded aboard mass transit trains and fewer cars hit the road Monday as public schools went on spring break, easing fears of fierce gridlock after last week’s fiery collapse of a key interstate bridge.

    Acknowledging the spike in train and bus riders, Georgia’s governor pledged state financial assistance for agencies providing more frequent transit service and said he’s seeking more federal aid for that same purpose.

    Monday morning’s rush hour traffic in the Southeast’s largest city appeared lighter than usual as the first full workweek opened since Thursday’s inferno cut off downtown Atlanta’s key highway link to its northern suburbs.

    But state officials warned that may not be the case when schools resume normal schedules. They urged private companies to allow employees to work from home and asked commuters to consider mass transit.

    The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority reported a big rush hour jump in passengers on its northern rail lines Monday morning, up 50 to 73 percent as many commuters sought to avoid the highways altogether.

    Friday saw traffic snarls and long delays as drivers sought to bypass the bridge collapse on side streets. Overall, fewer cars were on the road than on a typical Monday because all metro Atlanta public schools are out for spring break this week.

    Motorist Randy Kessler said he left his home north of the city to drive downtown around 7 a.m., slightly earlier than usual. He said he didn’t experience any major traffic heading south, but saw more traffic going north.

    “This is going to help in the long run,” said Kessler, a divorce lawyer. “It reminds me of the (1996) Olympics when people were terrified about driving downtown, but it was lightest traffic ever. It made people carpool more. I think Atlanta needed a little kick in the butt. We needed something to change our habits to make us rethink our daily commute.”

    Crews are working around the clock to remove scorched debris from the collapsed bridge. A portion of Interstate 85 remains closed as drivers are being redirected to alternate routes to bypass the wrecked bridge.

    The closed section of I-85 is a key link to some of the city’s biggest suburbs. It carries about 400,000 vehicles a day in a city where there are surprisingly few alternative routes for its size.

    Officials pledged after the collapse of the 350-foot section of Interstate 85 that a replacement bridge would be built as soon as possible, but that could take months.

    On Monday, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal promised financial help from the state to transit agencies seeing increased ridership and released a letter seeking more financial aid dedicated to transit agencies from the federal government.

    U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao last week released $10 million for the initial repair work, and the Federal Highway Administration promised more in emergency repair funds.

    Deal also requested Monday that federal authorities waive various regulations and potentially lower the cost of repairs. The state also hopes to use financial incentives for private contractors and state employees to speed up completion.

    In the meantime, Deal said state employees are being urged to work from home or use transit to reach government buildings clustered downtown. He urged private companies to follow the state’s lead.

    Authorities said the fire was started by a man who had talked about smoking crack prior to the fire that broke out under the bridge in an area north of downtown Atlanta where the state of Georgia stores noncombustible construction materials. The blaze grew quickly with smoke billowing high above the city’s skyline before the bridge collapsed. Firefighters had already scrambled to safety and no one was hurt.

    Basil Eleby was charged with first-degree arson and first-degree property damage. He remains in jail on a $200,000 bond. Two other people with him were charged with criminal trespass, authorities said.

    Georgia Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry said Monday that his agency will evaluate “all things” connected to the fire, including storage locations of construction materials.

    “We certainly will be looking at all things to make sure that we never have a catastrophic event like this again,” McMurry said.

    McMurry said investigators in Eleby’s case and with the National Transportation Safety Board have requested that crews preserve some evidence from the site. He didn’t provide details.

    11 Alive News 4/3/2017 PM

    OK, so by now you know that a massive fire that burned under I-85 caused portions of the Interstate to collapse and rendered other pieces of it useless. (Click here to see the moment the bridge collapsed)

    An estimate 220,000 drivers use that section of interstate daily, but that’s all changed now. So how do you get around? One big option is the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, or MARTA.

    (If you absolutely must drive, 11Alive has tons of information on routes on our site.)

    RELATED | Will MARTA be savior from I-85 collapse chaos?

    OK, let’s start with the basics:

    Where can I catch MARTA and where does it go?

    Most of the MARTA rail lines lie within the Perimeter and consists of four lines — red, gold, blue and green — that run north to south and east to west. All lines meet at the Five Points station, which is where riders can transfer to different lines. Outside of the Perimeter, MARTA bus routes connect neighborhoods to rail stations.

    Most stations at the end of each line also have FREE parking for riders, though with anticipated increase in passengers, MARTA suggests they try to Kiss-n-Ride to and from stations.


    RAIL SERVICE | Click here to get a map of the entire MARTA system.

    MARTA | Plan a trip 

    How do I get on MARTA and what’s a Breeze Card?

    The MARTA Breeze Card is your literal ticket to riding MARTA. It’s a reloadable plastic card that riders tap to get through the faregates and onto the train platforms and buses.

    How much does it cost?

    The Breeze Card costs $2.00 plus the additional fare and can be used for up to three years after it is purchased. MARTA is in the process of moving from blue Breeze cards to a more secure Silver Breeze card, and after March 31, blue cards can no longer be reloaded.

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