I was sitting in traffic the other day, which is a fairly common occurrence to those that live in Atlanta. Whenever this occurs, inevitably, I, or someone like Jen often asks “why is it always this bad?” The question is pretty redundant, because we all know the answer to it, but it’s partially frustration and partially the fact that there’s really nothing else to say when you’re stuck in suffocating Atlanta gridlock.
Aside from the sheer lack of surface streets leading to a massive reliance on the highways, if you were to ask me, I’d tell you that the biggest problem causing Atlanta traffic is simply Interstate 20, which slices neatly through the middle of Atlanta, going east-west. At three points in the Atlanta highway system does I-20 intersect, and at any given point during the day (or night), those will inevitably be the worst points of traffic. The I-85/I-75 connector probably gets it the worst in both directions on a daily basis, but the west intersection of I-285 and I-20 is notorious for predictably horrific traffic, especially for those traveling southbound; it’s incredible how people needing to travel westbound on I-20 manage to choke out and congest four lanes across 10 miles of roadway on a daily basis.
Basically, I have a belief that if I-20 did not directly intersect through the entire City of Atlanta, a massive part of congestion would be alleviated. Instead, have I-20 cease at I-285, and route all east-west traffic through the southern half of I-285 that is substantially less utilized, where drivers have the option to resume driving on I-20 in the desired direction. Sure, this only necessarily clears up one of the major daily choke points, but considering the connector is two interstates merged into one for 17 miles, they kind of get priority over a “bypass.”
The bottom line is that I blame the existence of I-20 as the root of the vast majority of the daily crippling traffic of the Metro Atlanta area.
However, I began contemplating the traffic issues of other cities, because nowadays I can honestly say that I’ve been to quite a few major cities throughout the country, and I guess I’m somewhat proud in having made up for a lot of lost time as a kid and become kind of well-traveled. And while thinking about other cities that I’ve been to, it got me wondering if there were any other cities that had a road system to Atlanta’s, where it has major interstates intersecting right in the dead fucking center of the entire city?
And the answer to appears to be that there are a lot of cities that appear to have some intersecting highways within their respective metropolitan areas, few of them have them located smack dab in the center of the city. Also, lots of these major cities are also coastal to some degree, whether they’re on the Atlantic, Pacific, or along a Great Lake, like Chicago. The presence of water is pretty sufficient at ending a highway where it stands. I’ve never been to Houston yet, but looking at their road system on Google Maps shows that they’re very similar to Atlanta, with major highways intersecting north-south as well as east-west. But unlike Atlanta, they’ve apparently got two bypass highways that encircle their general metro populous; needless to say, it’s no surprise seeing Houston appear on the list of some of the worst traffic in the country.
Either way, there are no more times when I say “I hate this city,” than when I’m in the car sitting in slammed traffic. I don’t necessarily mean it, but it really does get frustrating sometimes. It’s like there’s nothing planned about the roadways all throughout the city and surrounding areas, and that it’s instead planned on the fly like WCW used to be, or how Mortal Kombat story continuity writers make shit up on the spot. I always thought bypasses were supposed to be just that, roads kind of out of the way meant to be expedient alternate routes to avoiding inner city traffic, but in the case of the northern part of I-285, it’s fully developed into Sandy Springs, and causes equally, if not worse traffic on the bypass than in the rest of the city, downtown.
Ultimately, traffic is one of those certainties in life to be added to the old adage of death and taxes, and no amount of contemplation and talking about it is ever going to solve anything. But for the sake of conversation, and sharing opinions, I simply conclude that the existence of I-20 is the root of all the traffic evil in Atlanta.