We Are Number One…Not For A Great Thing
Hooray, we are number one in the nation with the worst-ever interchange. To local in Atlanta, the nation’s worst interstate interchange is known as “Spaghetti Junction.” To out-of-town folks, it is known as the Tom Moreland Interchange. The honor was bestowed upon the Atlanta metro region by the American Transportation Research Institute. They say that Spaghetti Junction, a combination of I-285 and I-85, is the slowest interchange in the country.
Having lived in the metro area for many moons, I’m not surprised. It’s the biggest challenge on my drive as well as thousands of others who need to commute into the city daily. Whether it’s a wreck on I-285, I-85 or on any of Spaghetti Junction’s massive ramps, traffic nightmares are quickly created. It doesn’t take much for bottlenecks to occur in the area on any given day or pretty much, any given hour. When it comes to the Atlanta area’s roads, they simply never sleep.
Aside from bad traffic conditions that make Spaghetti Junction is a fiasco, weather adds another element to the situation altogether. If it rains, expect a bottleneck. If there’s fog, still expect a bottleneck. Heck, if there’s sun, expect a bottleneck. Commuters and truckers alike simply cannot win.
The worst situation is the occasional snow/ice event. In the words of one of Atlanta’s legendary traffic reporters, “the entire thing is toast, put a fork in it.” That loosely pulled quote comes from the late Keith Kalland, who like me, came to the Atlanta area to live and work – from Ohio.
Another traffic reporter legend, the late Herb Emory was so good at his job, he got a few ramps posthumously named after him. “Captain Herb,” as he was affectionately known in the Atlanta radio market had a special term for vehicle fires. “We have another ‘auto flambé’ out there,” he quipped, while witnessing yet another car on fire creating even more traffic mischief.
I haven’t lived in too many other markets over the years. I only visited many other American cities. Certainly, they have their traffic headaches, but for some reason, I just feel that Atlanta has unique transportation problems. Leaders and traffic gurus alike acknowledge the issues and promise to do something to alleviate the myriad problems. The Georgia Department of Transportation says that its committed to improving traffic flow through an $11 billion highway overhaul complete with rebuilt ramps, interchanges and even more express lanes. Bless all their hearts because I love them and would not really want their jobs. Well maybe I would want their jobs for an attractive price, LOL.
Anyway, there’s all this talk about trying to attract more business to the Atlanta metro area. The latest brouhaha is all about courting Amazon to locate a massive distribution center here. Now, Atlanta is in the running along with many other cities like Boston and Austin.
We have heard it all before about the great weather, awesome airport, friendly hard-working folks, the movie business, amazing entertainment and top-notch cuisine in the form of legendary restaurants. But, many folks point out Atlanta’s Achilles Heel: traffic. Okay, it’s awful, but really, all these other cities have awful traffic and lack of transportation options. A recent NBC Saturday Night Live sketch about cities competing for Amazon aired. The sketch contained the players portraying people from Atlanta who tout the great airport, but it would take someone two hours to get to the place. Ha, ha, true on certain days, but that problem would be solved with dedicated express lanes which cities have been working on for quite some time. The sketch also included a cast member playing southern cuisine expert Paula Deen attempting to woo Amazon with her home-baked goods. Also, funny, but as many pointed out, Paula comes from Savannah – several hours south of the Atlanta metro area. Plus, there they go again playing into southern stereotypes. Hey, it’s all in jest, but that sketch honestly exposes quite a bit of ignorance about the region.
I say, get over it and locate the Amazon distribution point at Spaghetti Junction! Just think about it. Place the fulfillment center there and an off-ramp to it and you pretty much solve the problem. Maybe later, build on-campus housing for those who wish to avoid driving altogether. Okay, it’s just a suggestion, but seriously, Amazon would be a fantastic addition to the south side of the Atlanta metro area. It seems that there is a lot more room and most of all, no Spaghetti Junction.