Let me start by saying that the application of “band aids” to help ease some of the traffic bottlenecks in Metro Atlanta is not bad and should not be seen as negative. I commend Governor Deal, his administration , GDOT, etc… for doing what families are having to do more and more often – making do with less.
That said, there is a limit, and on July 31st, 12 regions (Metro Atlanta being far and away the most significant) will vote on levying a one cent sales tax to pay for a list of transportation initiatives.
A look at the Atlanta Region’s list shows a renovation of the GA 400 interchange with 285 up to Spalding Dr., as well as a study of extending MARTA to Holcomb Bridge and intersection improvements at Holcomb Bride as well. But besides that, GA 400 is pretty much left as-is.
Meanwhile, arguably the busiest corridor in Atlanta – GA 400 gets a series of well-intentioned “fixes” - all of which were done over as few as one overnight work-a-thon before the opening. For whatever reason, GA 400 has been the target of a number of small improvements, most of which have occurred over one evening in advance of rush hour the next day.
First there was the change where GA 400 ends and dumps into southbound I-85. One lane was taken from I-85 and given to GA 400 to improve the merge. The result predictably improved GA 400 at the expense of I-85. Can only presume that commuters have adjusted to the change. Actually, there is a major project begun that will provide a real change and improvement.
Next, there was the decision to allow the southbound shoulders (meant for MARTA buses and emergency vehicles) to be used from 630 to 930 am south of Holcomb Bridge. There has been a lot of push-back from the emergency management community about losing their emergency lane.
Finally, the right lane previously dedicated to exiting and entering traffic between McFarland (Exit 12) and Holcomb Bridge (Exit 7) has been converted to an extra lane making the deceleration and acceleration areas much smaller.
Early success of thee changes has been mixed. The improvement has been difficult to quantify, but there is some empirical evidence form my wife who commutes Alpharetta to Perimeter 4 times a week. She reports that traffic is backing up more getting on GA 400 at each exit. Also, while the Haynes Bridge to Holcomb Bride gridlock seems to have improved, traffic is now backing up at the Chattahoochee river (MM15) when before this area was usually moving pretty well. It is as if the delay has been pushed upstream (onto arterials) and downstream.
I have just a few thoughts about the changes:
- Ramp meters were placed a lot of places but having them where the changes on GA 400 occurred might have helped.
- If these changes were so great why wasn’t the road designed this way in the first place. (Especially the seemingly bonus lane between Exits 12 and 7.)
- The former layout of GA 400 was the result of a full engineering study. There is no way the changes were studied in this manner.
- Adding a MARTA train wouldn’t make a dent in the issue.