The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Layers of lane closures create headache on GA-400

- Doug Turnbull Gridlock Guy

The recent rides on GA-400 and I-285 near their interchang­e have gotten worse, thanks to the months-long lane reductions for the I-285 bridge rebuilds. These have squeezed I-285 in both directions near GA-400, mainly causing delays on I-285/westbound (Outer Loop). A couple of months after that began, GDOT reduced Ga-400/northbound at I-285 by a lane for the same reason, but with less press than the I-285 closures.

Add in the relocated, new Ga-400/southbound ramps to I-285 with some of the confusion-induced delays there, and the drive in the interchang­e has been especially tough during rush hours.

A new wrinkle in the fold has come about in recent days, as MARTA’S Red Line track replacemen­t prompted a nine-day closure of the left lanes of GA-400 each way just north of Lenox Road (Exit

2). This major rail repair also interrupte­d MARTA service between Lindbergh and the Medical Center stops, prompting the operation to set up bus bridges and offer rideshare credits for those seeking to travel that route.

Ironically, a good alternativ­e to the GA-400 delays in each direction would be to take the MARTA Red Line.

The main issue with these closures is the fact that they are taking place at the same time as the long-term blockages in Sandy Springs. The Ga-400/northbound ride was without a left lane near Lenox and then without a lane up at I-285. That has made the morning and afternoon rush hours between I-85 and I-285 in Buckhead absolutely miserable.

But MARTA did indeed work with the state in coordinati­ng these closures.

“MARTA has worked closely with GDOT since September of last year on this phase of our Track Replacemen­t Project, and we finalized the lane closure permits in December,” MARTA spokespers­on Stephany Fisher told the AJC and 95.5 WSB. “Additional­ly, GDOT and MARTA management meet monthly and this project has been discussed frequently over the last six months.”

MARTA has done a stellar job of alerting the public of the Red Line service interrupti­ons, sending out warnings weeks in advance and then nearly daily updates during the Feb.17 through 26 track replacemen­t. The Red Line service was completely interrupte­d until late on Wednesday and then operated in limited capacity the next few days, before fully restoring on Sunday.

But the heads-up on the lane closures on GA-400 fell through the cracks. On Friday, Feb.17, the WSB Traffic Team noticed the left lane being closed each way on GA-400. When that lasted into PM drive, I called GDOT’S 511 Traffic Management Center and they said the closure would be in place for the next 10 or so days. That was the first we had heard that, and we then realized it had to do with the MARTA project.

Whether that communicat­ion should have fallen on the transit agency or on the state is a question they have to answer. But for all the rightful hoopla that the track replacemen­t received and for all the alerts we get about various nightly and weekend lane closures for other GDOT projects, there was no notice of this major interrupti­on on GA-400.

Once we realized this would be a reality for days, we detailed the delays and the reasons constantly on 95.5 WSB in our traffic reports inside and outside of rush hour. We also kept alerts of it active in our Triple Team Traffic Alerts App for the breadth of the closure.

Coordinati­ng road closures and events has been a moving target between the state and local agencies. Constructi­on of the I-75 Peach Pass Express Lanes did not subside when Truist Park opened in 2017. Crews in Sandy Springs did not interrupt the paralyzing­ly slow road closures on I-285 during the Atlanta Braves 2021 World Series run or at any time the past few years around adjourning Braves traffic. People are just supposed to check ahead and then plan their trips around that work zone, unless they want to sit in delays at night.

MARTA wisely scheduled the rail replacemen­t and GA-400 lane closures around the Presidents Day holiday weekend and the winter breaks that left many school systems out all or part of last week.

Could MARTA have delayed its track replacemen­t until after the lane reductions on I-285 and GA-400 have ended? Possibly, but MARTA also has objectives to meet to maintain, advance and grow. Could it have just closed one lane in one direction of GA-400 instead of one both ways? Maybe not, considerin­g the amount of vehicles parked in those blocked lanes to tend to the project.

The agency did hire a traffic firm to manage the lane closures, and it maintains that the blockage was mandatory.

understand these temporary lane closures can be inconvenie­nt, but they are necessary to complete this track work safely,” Fisher said, noting that everything would be open in time for the start of the next work week.

The lane closures on GA-400 near Lenox for the past week-plus were a nuisance, especially when combined with the Sandy Springs road work. But they were necessary. They just needed to be communicat­ed more clearly. Thankfully, they are open now.

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 ?? DOUG TURNBULL/WSB SKYCOPTER ?? MARTA Red Line track replacemen­t caused the left lane to be blocked on GA-400 in each direction near Lenox Road from Feb. 17 through this past weekend.
DOUG TURNBULL/WSB SKYCOPTER MARTA Red Line track replacemen­t caused the left lane to be blocked on GA-400 in each direction near Lenox Road from Feb. 17 through this past weekend.

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