ATLANTA - Thursday marks four weeks since a massive fire under Interstate 85 caused a section of the busy interstate to collapse. Ever since, state traffic officials have been working overtime, managing the major closures. The Traffic Management Center was initially built to house security operations for the Olympics in 1996. Today, it's used as the heart of the DOT's operations.
While many of us watched in shock at the fire and collapse of I-85 nearly a month ago, the room full of DOT employees at the Traffic Management Center went all hands on deck.
"We lost one of our critical facilities in metro Atlanta. That's a road that carried almost 250,000 vehicles per day, and obviously when you lose a road like that, you see dramatic changes in traffic conditions throughout the metro area," says Georgia DOT Traffic Engineer, Andrew Heath.
The Traffic Management Center, or TMC for short, is where the action happens with hundreds of cameras positioned around the city, motion sensors on all major roads, and HERO operators patrolling nonstop. When a traffic problem happens around Atlanta, these are some of the people who respond.
"We've got typically over 20 folks sitting on the floor at any given time, they are monitoring traffic conditions, looking at cameras, and communicating and dispatching the HERO operators that are out there on the road so that we can best serve the traveling public within metro Atlanta," adds Heath.
They're closely watching reversible express lanes, changing overhead warning signs, and talking to you. If you need help on the road, and call 511, this is where your call is answered.
SKYFOX Traffic relies heavily on the information, as well. We have access to the same communication system DOT uses to clear problems. We're always watching it closely, and passing along the critical reports to you every morning.
"Georgia DOT is state of the art in terms of utilizing technology and being smart about trying to manage traffic. We have a very large facility that's been in place for quite some time, we got our start all the way back with the Olympics and that event gave us the jump on most other states across the country," Heath explains.
They're the first to tell you though, that they're always learning and improving and the state has learned a lot from their response to the I-85 collapse. "It's certainly been a challenge. I think we've learned that people will adapt to changing conditions and that they're looking for the important information. So for us, putting our best foot forward, always putting th best information out there, to empower the traveling public to make the best decision, I think we see that as a critical lesson learned and something that we'll continue to do in the future," Heath says.
Another helpful program Georgia was one of the first to use is "TRIP" the Towing Recovery Incentive Program. it's supported by 511, to clear big interstate wrecks quickly. It offers a $3,000 bonus for towing crews and heavy duty equipment crews that can clear a wreck in 90 minutes or less.
While we have access to more detailed traffic information, a majority of the same information we're monitoring is at your fingertips too, at 511.com or on the 511 app. You can also always dial 511 across Georgia to speak with a live representative around the clock. Georgia is one of the only states that staff those phone lines 24/7.