ATLANTA - Hurricane Irma has already brought increased traffic to Georgia and metro Atlanta and it is only expected to get worse.
"Based on what area of the state you're in right now, we're either seeing a 600 percent increase in congestion down in the Valdosta area or a 300 percent increase in Macon and it's only Thursday," explained Georgia Department of Transportation Spokeswoman Natalie Dale.
GDOT has already put several measures in place to try to lessen the impact of the increased volume.
Until further notice, the Interstate 75 express lanes south of Atlanta have been changed to flow northbound only. The State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) will stop charging tolls to use those lanes beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, September 8.
To ease congestion for evacuees from the Georgia coast, the state will implement contraflow on Interstate 16 beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday.
"We don't have to do that a lot," said Dale. "So, that really tells you the severity of this storm as it's coming in."
The DOT has also sent extra HERO and Champ units south to help manage traffic issues along I-75, I-16, and I-95.
Dale said metro Atlanta will feel the impact of the increased traffic Friday and throughout the weekend. She encourages people to stay off the roads if possible.
"With any emergency situation, we just ask drivers to be as helpful and as courteous as possible," explained Dale. "If you can telework, if you have that flexibility with your job, we encourage that--any sort of transit or carpooling that you can do. We have a lot of extra cars coming to the metro area. We want them to be safe. We want them to get out of harm's way and so, we want drivers in the metro area to do what they can from Friday well into the weekend to make sure that we're keeping our roads as open as possible."