ATLANTA -- Spring break is coming to an end meaning more traffic in Atlanta - and the potential for longer commutes.
It's the latest test facing the city's new traffic patterns after the collapse of I-85 - and it could mean travel times rising 20 to 30 percent.
More cars will also leave motorists looking for new strategies to navigate the city streets. But the best strategy they may have on Monday is to be prepared to wait.
Plan on taking back roads? Too late.
That's already the main strategy for thousands of motorists twisting and snaking their way through back roads, side streets and traditionally quiet neighborhoods. Some families are already warning drivers to be on the look out for kids.
"I know it's going to be crazy based upon what I see right now," Christopher Robbins said.
But the Georgia Department of Transportation says we haven't seen anything yet.
"Everyone knows and agrees that the traffic situation is going to be challenging," GDOT's Scott Higley said.
Some already plan to avoid the roads at all costs. But for those forced to submerge themselves in the anticipated 2-month traffic nightmare through downtown Atlanta, it's going to be a slow ride.
"We're not in a business as usual situation at all," Mayor Kasim Reed said while presenting traffic congestion numbers for the next week's commute. "Right now, we are hearing in the modeling that traffic and travel times will increase by 30 percent."
And that means somewhat unfamiliar logistical problems for locals on routine drives.
"Just coming up here right now I almost ran out of gas," Robbins said.
That's the other traffic hazard city officials want motorists to avoid.
"If you get in a car to go to work on the north side of the city without a full tank of gas, you are really putting yourself in jeopardy," Mayor Reed said.
And so drivers are being encouraged to travel with extra fuel, patience and, most importantly, time.
"My new plan is to leave early," motorist Joe Robinson said. "Like, 2 hours early. That's the best thing to do."
The city is recommending businesses stagger start times to help reduce traffic. As for those working, the city hopes they'll take advantage of public transportation or, if possible, work from home.
MARTA is already taking steps to help ease those traffic pains with its sudden boom in ridership after the I-85 collapse.
The transit authority announced plans to expand parking lots at five high-traffic stations adding nearly 1,200 new parking spaces. On Monday, MARTA is also launching a new web-based parking tracker to help riders plan their commutes.
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