Traffic delays expected again this weekend

By Michael Davis

Work around the Atlanta perimeter is expected to once again snarl traffic for weekend commuters, Georgia transportation officials said.

One of the busiest construction times during the summer, the state Department of Transportation has several projects in the works they say will bring heavy delays for motorists using the Interstate 285 perimeter that rings Atlanta. Last weekend, motorists ran into heavy delays in almost all areas of the perimeter.

But a few factors could make travel a bit lighter that it was last week, DOT spokesman David Spear said.

"It's going to be bad. I don't want to give anybody false hope because it's not going to be a drive in the country,'' he said.

But in some areas, particularly the east side of town, Spear said, less work is being done and fewer lanes will be closed. And a significantly lighter in-town events schedule should keep some motorists off of Atlanta's busiest roads.

But in Clayton County, motorists will see delays similar to last weekend as work continues on the fifth runway at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The DOT said the project this weekend will require up to three westbound lanes to closed all weekend, from Clark Howell Highway to Riverdale Road for paving.

The fifth runway project involves bridging east and westbound lanes of I-285 with the runway. Spear said that work, like many of the ongoing projects in the metro area, should wrap up sometime in October or November, weather permitting.

Last weekend, traffic was gridlocked at all quadrants of I-285 with heavy construction.

"It was very bad,'' Spear said.

The work forced many drivers onto the downtown I-75/85 connector only to be stalled by a jumper who presented himself on the Courtland Street bridge and forced the closure of both north and southbound lanes just before an Atlanta Braves game.

There are no Braves events scheduled for this weekend.

In south Fulton County this weekend, two right northbound lanes of I-85 between Ga. Highway 138 and Flat Shoals Road will be closed, and both on and off-ramps at Ga. 138 will be closed all weekend.

Friday, DOT was monitoring Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall on the Florida coast late Thursday and was expected to head north once in the Gulf of Mexico, possibly spawning storms here early next week.

Spear said as long as the track of the hurricane progresses as expected, road work should continue. A hurricane track released Friday by the National Weather Service Hurricane Center showed Katrina making landfall on the Florida panhandle sometime Monday morning.

If southsiders come out on top in all of this, it's because most of the heavy construction this weekend will take place on the north side. Four lanes of I-285 eastbound at Buford Highway will be closed for ongoing bridge work. Work will also continue on the Holcomb Bridge Road bridge over Ga. 400.