What is going on at GDOT?

The mess on I-20 Wednesday further highlighted a serious problem in the Metro Atlanta region – TRANSPORTATION. In a city with a metropolitan population nearing 5 million, there is still no sign of a solution for the growing gridlock.

A series of small problems led to a world-class snafu that backed up morning rush-hour traffic on I-20 for 14 miles Wednesday and had officials up to Gov. Sonny Perdue looking for answers.

As near as some observers could see, road contractors had a lane closed off but weren’t doing any work. The contractors acknowledged that the work had been complete but said that a broken-down cement truck forced them to keep the lane closed.

Then the tow truck didn’t show up. They couldn’t push it for fear the air brakes would fail. And a state Department of Transportation inspector who was supposed to be nearby wasn’t anywhere to be found.

The incident happened in the eastbound lanes between Fulton Industrial Boulevard and I-285, and traffic was back into Douglas County.

The MARTA is sub-par, at best, and traffic is horrendous. The Georgia Department of Transportation is light-years behind the times and refuses to acknowledge its inadequacies.

If you live in Atlanta, work in Atlanta, or just enjoy visiting Atlanta for its unbeatable “value,” then you probably want to remedy the situation – and soon.

So what is the problem? Wherein lies the blame? And how can we fix it?

Is it Governor Perdue’s fault for overseeing the perennial disaster? Should we blame State Transportation Secretary and expert alpaca farmer Harold Linnenkohl? Is it someone else’s doing? Perhaps the people of Atlanta brought this on themselves?

I have heard explanations ranging from nepotism within the GDOT in assigning contracts, to a disconnect between state-level politicians and city planners, to downright apathy.

There are a whole lot of questions, no decent answers, and very few people working toward a better solution. If Atlanta wants to avoid a complete breakdown and offset the looming infrastructure failure, then someone needs to develop a plan that does more than slap a band-aid on a gaping head wound. Someone needs to plan for the future rather than patching up holes on an as-needed basis.

So how about it folks? Surely a great number of you know more about GDOT than me. What are your thoughts?

17 comments

  1. bowersville says:

    I haven’t had any contact with the GaDOT in years, but the last time I did, I witnessed something strange. I saw two guys leaning on each other, blocking traffic.

    I stopped and asked them, “What are you doing, you’re holding up traffic?”

    Their reply, “Our foreman said he forgot the shovel and said, just go ahead and lean on each other ’till I get back!”

    Now Dang, that’s some planning.

  2. Pappy says:

    Does the Governor own a bunch of land off I-20 we don’t know about, or is he just surfing the headlines again?

  3. CobbGOPer says:

    As sad as it is to say, I think race plays a big but silent part.

    Why is MARTA so ineffective? For one thing, it doesn’t have a lot of reach in terms of where the rail lines run. We have what, two lines running east-west and north-south. If you look at other systems that are more highly utilized, say in DC for instance, there are some five or six lines that run all over the city and out into the surrounding suburbs, often linking up with commuter rail stations that bring in commuters from even further away. MARTA hasn’t expanded it’s lines in years, and with counties like Gwinnett, Cobb, Fayette, Henry (which account for a massive amount, likely a majority, of the auto commuters into Atlanta) refusing to allow expansion lines into their territory, it makes the problem worse.

    Of course, we all know why these counties won’t let MARTA in, it’s just that no one wants to say it out loud. They don’t want black people to have the ability to easily come out to their counties.

    Also, with MARTA in its current state, who should be taking the most advantage of it? It would seem logical that it would be the residents of North Fulton, who have a line that runs up past the Perimeter and provides copious amounts of parking for park&ride. Why do they beat their brains out sitting on 400 every day instead? They don’t want to ride the trains with black people, plain and simple.

    Don’t get me wrong, there are a great deal of other factors contributing to the sorry state of transportation infrastructure in Metro Atlanta. But until peoples’ attitudes start to change, we’re going to have a very tough time solving this problem.

    Just my humble opinion.

  4. Adam Fogle says:

    I think race plays a big but silent part.

    And you are probably right. But why does DC have their stuff together and Atlanta does not?

    Could it have something to do with public-private ownership? Especially when placed in the context of racial or social factors.

    with counties like Gwinnett, Cobb, Fayette, Henry (which account for a massive amount, likely a majority, of the auto commuters into Atlanta) refusing to allow expansion lines into their territory, it makes the problem worse.

    So how did they get it to work in DC, NYC, and other areas with successful mass transit systems?

    As far as I know, the METRO was approved at the state level, in both Maryland and Virginia, and applicable to all necessary cities and counties therein.

    So would something like that be part of the solution for Atlanta?

  5. Chris says:

    CobbGOPer:

    substitute poor for black and you might have a point.

    The real problem with Marta is that even in the city it’s hard to get where you want to go, and it’s not really that much faster when you factor in waiting for the train, all the stops the trains make, waiting for the bus at the rail stop, and then the Bus has to fight traffic.

  6. DougieFresh says:

    I used the subway many times in Paris, and it was great. But, it seems that there was a station every 2 blocks and several lines arranged in a gridlike pattern.

    There is no way MARTA could make such a system today without outspending the federal government. So, you are left with a N-S line and an E-W line with most of the city unserved.

    There may be no solution to Atlanta traffic, other than stopping development ITP.

  7. CobbGOPer says:

    Well, that’s where you hit a problem: local control, and all the politicians that tout it.

    While I’m generally all in favor of local control, where do you draw the line? It might be time for the state to step in and take more control of the situation than they have in the past.

    But then you run into the problem of politicians afraid for their re-election chances. No one wants to step up and call for more control and action at the state level for fear of angering the voters back home, who want to fiercely maintain as much local control as possible.

    In my opinion, I do think more state control is needed. We’ll never get these counties to agree and cooperate on effective transportation reforms if no one has the ability to force the issue. But our Governors and Legislatures refuse to do so, and have refused to do so for years.

    I’ll admit I don’t know much about the public-private partnerships with regards to transportation here in Georgia. Perhaps one of our learned posters here can shed more light on that subject.

  8. CobbGOPer says:

    On the race/MARTA issue, it appears now that even black people don’t feel safe on MARTA. Just check out Cynthia Tucker’s blog on AJC.com today…

  9. Mad Dog says:

    The perfect storm, then rugby_fan?

    The perfect argument not to build more roads and A GDOT committed to building more roads.

    If GDOT doesn’t expand as an agency etc etc etc … can the state support that many more alpaca farmers?

  10. RiverRat says:

    As a native of the actual city of Atlanta, part of me laughs at the whole “traffic” thing. As has been pointed out before, all it is really doing is driving people back into town. Atlanta itself has the ability to manage traffic fairly well (visits by Donald Trump not withstanding).

    Lots of new development in Atlanta is going on around MARTA stations – see everything in Midtown, Historic Westside Village, lots of stuff on DeKalb Ave, the eventual Fort McPherson redevelopment – the residential boom on the north side of downtown is walking distance to the Civic Center station.

    The only real answer to the traffic problem is density. This doesn’t mean all development has to be “city” type development – traditional small town development is dense enough to work, too. See Marietta, Decatur, Lawrenceville as example.

    I would LOVE it if we were able to expand MARTA into the ‘burbs, if we had commuter rail, etc. But if the DOT and the state doesn’t get on board, then I think Atlanta will be fine. We’ll keep building in town and downtown, creating interesting neighborhoods with lots of things to do, with lots of diverse folks and incomes.

    If the tax base increases enough (and it is doing that rapidly), we will be able to fund streetcars and BeltLines and provide viable service to areas MARTA underserves. We will be fine – the rest of ya’ll are gonna be stuck in traffic that runs 20 lanes wide.

  11. Decaturguy says:

    There may be no solution to Atlanta traffic, other than stopping development ITP.

    I think you’ve actually got it backwards. Low density suburban OTP development is what is causing the traffic nightmare. If Atlanta were able to develop high density ITP, then it would be able to solve its transportation problems by being able to develop transit that actually works.

    I think most people misinterpret the “traffic” problem. Traffic is really just a symptom of poor land development.

  12. DougieFresh says:

    Decaturguy,

    Read the followup. I did not mean residental development. I mean commercial development (jobs). When all the jobs are downtown and the beds are in the burbs, that means traffic. If the jobs and beds were closer together, there would be less need for major arteries prone to bottlenecks.

    Of course it would also mean people making it a priority to live closer to work (which is what I did).

  13. RiverRat says:

    DougieFresh, regarding office development ITP – I don’t think a slowdown of office development ITP will do much for traffic. Atlanta will continue to grow, and it makes the most sense for it to grow mostly ITP. If you tried to stop office development ITP, then you are really driving it into Marietta, Smyrna, Gwinnett, Alpharetta, etc. These areas have an even worse roads infrastructure than Atlanta (and frankly, Midtown and Downtown aren’t that bad during rush hour. There is traffic, but I get out of downtown in less than 10 minutes.)

    Really, I would love to see more office development downtown – and fully utilize the exisiting transit systems on the south and west sides of town. Downtown has a street grid that can handle traffic in multiple directions, and you’d see more utilzation of MARTA by middle class workers – because downtown is the one place in Atlanta where MARTA gets you where you need to be.

    The necessary corollary to this development is the continued growth and revitalization of in town neighborhoods. Right now, this will likely happen in 5-10 years (I’m referring now to areas like Mechanicsville, West End, Washington Park – not areas like Inman Park, Grant Park, Virginia Highlands, and Morningside – these areas can probably support a streetcar system currently, as they are not served by MARTA particularly well).

    Basically, I’m saying that continued commercial and residential growth in the historical core of Atlanta and in Midtown will allow alternative transit options to succeed, and allow Atlanta to grow without burdening the highways too much. Atlanta has, and can in the future, operate as a self-sustaining city where a sizable portion of the workforce live and work in the city itself. I know it is hard to believe for those of you in the burbs, but it will happen regardless of what happens on a state or regional level. The more people move in town, the more office growth will look again at downtown and midtown – precisely because the region has done nothing to deal with the traffic situation.

  14. DougieFresh says:

    RR,

    I guess it is hard for me to image how stuffing every available job into one small area helps traffic. It seems it means more people have to go to the same place from all parts of the city, meaning lots of red tail lights on 16 lanes interstate roads.

    When I lived downtown and worked in Gwinnett (granted it was 1997), I could zoom along at rates that would earn me a “super speeder” citation.

    This was because I was going places that other people we not going. If the destinations were spread out through the entire metro area, perhaps we wouldn’t shut the entire city down every time a truck of frozen chickens topples over.

  15. Decaturguy says:

    The traffic problem in metro Atlanta is not a result of everyone trying to get to one place, it is a result of people trying to get to all sorts of places from all different directions.

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