ATLANTA – Drivers who depend on Georgia 400 are reacting to the many changes, including the loss of a stretch of shoulder lanes.
Commuters have been getting a taste of the future with the occasional closing of the shoulder to rush hour traffic. Orange barrels have been steering commuters away from construction along a stretch from Spalding Drive to I-285.
“It's taking away the usual summer relief of traffic on 400,” says one driver.
Now drivers are learning that their rush hour relief is going away for good along that six-mile stretch.
“Traffic is obviously going to go through the roof,” says another commuter.
Rush hour travelers can jump into the shoulder lane to avoid congestion on certain sections of 400. The hours are restricted, and the speed in the shoulder is limited to 45-miles-an-hour.
It's been that way for the past five years.
Access is slowly vanishing and will disappear sometime before the end of the year in the area where construction will take place between now and 2020.
Most commuters are away they’re losing the shoulder, or flex lane, because something better is coming.
The construction is part of a massive project that will transform the interchange of Georgia 400 and I-285. New lanes will separate exiting traffic from the normal flow on both Georgia 400 and I-285.
Work is progressing quickly. Sometime over the next few months, construction crews will need to occupy the shoulder. Rush hour commuters will never get it back.
“You're getting a better fix than the part-time fix with the flex lane,” says GDOT’s Natalie Dale. “That's why the flex lane is going away.”
While it has helped with congestion, some law enforcement officers say there's also been a downside to allowing traffic to use the shoulder. There have been accidents due to drivers using the shoulder during the hours when it's supposed to be off limits.
11Alive’s Commuter Dude has documented cases of drivers remaining in the shoulder lane beyond the area where it’s allowed, including the driver of a pickup truck who swerved back into traffic right before an exit.
“I don't use them,” said one driver of the shoulder lanes. “They're dangerous to me.”
And before too long, on one stretch of 400, they'll be unavailable.
GDOT is urging commuters to monitor the agency’s website and GA511 for information about the project.