ATLANTA - The first day of normal traffic following spring break proved to be quite a test for some metro Atlanta commuters.
"I'm basically making circles in the opposite direction I usually travel just to get to work," said Michael Borman of Atlanta.
Navigating gridlock around the collapsed section of i-85 was tricky, but not as bad as some expected.
"I thought it was going to be horendous, so I waited for the gap and left a little later, but tomorrow I will leave McDonough two hours early to make sure I get to work in Buckhead no later than 7:30 or 8 o'clock," said Caroline Douglas.
Natalie Dale, the spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation, said commuters did a great job adjusting their schedules to accommodate road delays.
She said very few car crashes were reported—which impressive considering up to 40 percent more commuters filled Interstate 285 and some of the other alternate routes.
"I'm just going to just get on that stupid road and suck it up, I guess," said maintenance man Patrick Wolf.
While the traffic flow following the fiery March 30 collapse is up, foot traffic for businesses nearby is down, way down.
"It's been down like 70 percent, 50percent. It's crazy. No one wants to be bothered with all the traffic so it's been really quiet for a lot of businesses here on Piedmont," said Matha Vargas, owner of Mama's restaurant. I really hope they are able to finish this project by June 15 like they promised. We need things to get back to normal and I'd hate for this to mess up Cinco de Mayo," Vargas said as she laughed from the front of her Mexican restaurant.
Seven hundred feet of interstate in both directions must be rebuilt.
Several new concrete support beams are being erected as well.
Mayor Kasim Reed signed an executive order on Monday suspending non-emergency road repairs from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays. In a statement he said the goal is to ease congestion for commuters trying to find alternates routes around the construction zone in Buckhead.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Governor Nathan Deal and the Georgia Department of Transportation have asked businesses to let employees telecommute or report on staggered schedules to avoid the busy 5-10:00 a.m. and 2:30-7:00 p.m. rush.
"It's going to be very important that everybody understand that we are not in a business as usual situation at all," Mayor Reed said in a news conference last week. "If you get in a car to go to work on the north side of the city without a full tank of gas, you are really putting yourself in jeopardy."
Most drivers appeared to take Mayor Reed seriously, and left with plenty of time to allow for a smooth ride. FOX 5's Portia Bruner spoke with Carolyn Douglas, who said she was happy about the conditions on the roads Monday.
"I listened to Mayor Reed, so I thought it was going to be horrendous, and it wasn't," Douglas said.
Douglas said she plans on leaving two hours early Tuesday.
According to the DOT, traffic volumes were about 40% higher during certain times Monday morning.
MARTA expects to see another surge in ridership this week and are opening up an additional 1200 parking spaces at the Brookhaven, Chamblee, East Point, Kensington and King Memorial stations to help ease congestion felt last week.
MARTA has also launched a new, real-time parking lot tracking section on their website (www.itsmarta.com/parking) so that riders can check to see if spots are available at their favorite station before they arrive.
"We're letting you know real time if they are full or almost full, so that people can adjust their routes, go to different stations before they actually get to the lot," Thomas explained.
MARTA has increased the frequency of its trains to six minutes apart during peak hours and twelve minutes during non-peak times. The transit authority also has additional operators on standby should they need to put more trains online to deal with additional volume.
Tips before you leave home/work Monday:
- Give yourself plenty of time - Monday is NOT the day to leave at the last minute
- Plan out your route in advance - There's a good chance it might be different
- Be flexible - Having a voice-activated, hands-free mapping app could help you avoid tie-ups
- Follow police officers' directions
- Don't block the box
- Be courteous to other drivers