The Interstate 85 Atlanta Bridge Collapse Traffic Apocalypse


Today, a major event happened in Atlanta Metro that is going to cause traffic chaos for the next few months.  A section of the Interstate 85 elevated bridge between the Interstate 75 split to the Georgia 400 split collapsed.  The northbound bridge now has a major gap in it.  The southbound bridge is still all intact but we don’t know if the fire has compromised a section of the bridge as well.

Here are some social media reactions to the collapse.

So, what could have caused this fire that has caused a major interstate bridge to collapse?  All you have to do is look at Google Maps!  Apparently, under the bridge there are fiber optic cables that were being stored.  It looks like it could be cable for traffic management systems because no DOT’s anywhere in the country would allow stuff like this to be stored under a major infrastructure corridor.

A viewer sent in a photo to WSB-TV apparently showing the fire starting.

Of course, there will be investigations about how this fire started.  But the Georgia DOT needs to explain why a ton of cables like this were allowed to be stored under a major bridge.  Were these cables for the DOT that they were going to use, or was a private company storing these here for their use?  Either way, this was very stupid!  So, we are now talking about up to six months of major traffic gridlock in the Atlanta Metro, up to six months!

Two major traffic corridors to get into downtown Atlanta from the very crowded northern suburbs are now cut-off.  You can’t take I-85 north of downtown or Georgia 400 into downtown Atlanta.  So, the only two alternatives to get into downtown Atlanta now involves getting onto the Interstate 285 loop.  You can either take the loop south to get to I-20, or you can take the loop west to I-75.  I-285, especially between I-85 and I-75 on the northside of Atlanta is already a jam packed traffic cluster fest every day.  So, let’s add even more traffic to this, yeah its not good!

Now, there is a parallel freeway next I-85 called Georgia 13 or the Buford Spring Connector.  There are ramps on either side of the bridge collapse that could provide a local temporary detour to I-85.

But let’s be honest, those ramps are only one lane and Georgia 13 is only two lanes.  So, it’s like draining a gallon of water with a tiny straw.  I am glad this option is here, but this detour will not be the best solution for the up to 250,000 cars who travel through this section every day.  I-285 or better yet using mass transit will be the best option.

So, with a major traffic corridor shutdown for months.  I want to talk about two things in the Atlanta Metro where I will say, I told you so!  First off, the Atlanta Braves will soon be playing their games in their brand new Suntrust Park.  The park is in one of the worst traffic chokepoints in the entire southeastern USA, the I-75 / I-285 interchange in NW Atlanta.  I wrote a post explaining why I never liked the new Atlanta Braves stadium location, and now I can smile and nod my head.  Now, with even more traffic that will have to go this way to get to work, go home, or run errands, good luck trying to get to the ballpark!  Why was no major mass transit options planned when this park was in the planning stages?

As for mass transit, Atlanta has a subpar mass transit system.  Sure, there is MARTA but it mostly runs inside the I-285 loop except for a portion of the northern route.  With a lack of commuter rail and major bus options in the Atlanta suburbs, people are now going to be bitten in the rear end for not planning mass transit properly!  What will the political fallout be over this bridge collapse and the lack of good mass transit options like light rail or commuter rail?  One thing is for sure, Atlanta needs more mass transit options, and the people living in the suburbs can get over the poorer people using it and coming to the suburbs!

Well, one can wish that we can just fly over this bridge gap like these just some good ole’ boys.

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The Evening Post: 55 Green Lights In New York City


Geek Alabama Evening Post

Keep in mind, you can not duplicate what you see in this video from New York City, unless it’s 3 am in the morning.  From the YouTube channel Tim Burke, he perfectly timed the traffic lights turning green in front him for many blocks.  Tim knows how the lights cycles, and keeps his speed low so each light turns green before he has to stop.  Now could someone make an app game like this!  This took place in Manhattan down 5th Ave., enjoy!

 

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Roadscapes Wednesday: Hoover School Bus Fees / Huntsville Road Problems


Roadscapes Geek Alabama

This week on Roadscapes Wednesday, I am talking about two issues affecting folks in Alabama.  First off, is there a solution to the Hoover School Bus issues?

Hoover School Buses Saved?

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This week, the Hoover City School Board voted to keep the school buses for the 2014-2015 school year and beyond.  But the school system is now looking at charging a user fee for each student to use the school buses, but that might not happen at all.  It all depends on what does school system cuts and decides to fund for the next school year.  When I posted the original Roadscapes talking about the Hoover school bus issue, it got a lot of people talking.  The Hoover BOE will soon be sitting down with a group of stakeholders (including Hoover citizens) and the City Council to discuss a variety of things, including the budget and what to cut and what to keep.

The only problem I have with the user fees is how much?  If the costs are too high, people with low-income will not be able to afford the fees.  Unless the school system does a sliding scale based on a parent’s income.  Today, a new wrinkle has been thrown into the school bus user fee debate.  The Alabama Department of Education is open to considering the idea that city school districts can charge students fees to ride a bus to and from school.  County schools are required to provide transportation for students to and from school.  But city school systems are not required to offer transportation for students. Thus, it is considered an optional service.

The state of Alabama pays city school districts 75% of the transportation costs.  But the city school districts must pay the remaining 25%.  If city school districts starts to charge a user fee, many parents and even the U.S. Attorney’s Office has concerns that a user fee would mean kids in city school districts can not get to school.  Some city school districts force kids to travel 10-20 miles to get to school.  And with high gas prices, that can take a small budget to big extremes.  I don’t have a problem if the user fee is based on a sliding scale.  But the user fee can not be too high!

I am glad the Hoover School Buses are back, and I hope the school system won’t have to do user fees and cuts can be made in other places.  I will keep up with this story, no child should be denied a right to an education because they can afford user fees to get to school.

Follow the Save the Hoover Bus System on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/savethehooverbuses

Follow the Hoover City School Facts blog at: http://hooverfacts.wordpress.com/

Huntsville Sales Tax For Roads?

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If you live in the Huntsville Metro, then you know how bad the traffic is.  If you think the traffic is bad now, if Alabama lands Boeing and creates up to 8,000 jobs in the Huntsville area, you won’t be able to get anywhere!  ALDOT director John Cooper is offering $125 million over five years to repair and build new roads/bridges in the Huntsville Metro which would improve traffic flow.  But with easy money, there is a catch.  Huntsville must provide a dollar-for-dollar match.  That is a lot of money for a city!

The Huntsville City Council is proposing a 1 cent sales tax increase to 9% to pay for the road upgrades.  The money would be used to build additional traffic lanes, widen roads, six-lane US 72, new overpasses on Memorial Parkway, and add adaptive traffic signals on Memorial Parkway and other major highways in the city.  So far, the Huntsville-Madison Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Builders and Contractors of North Alabama have endorsed the 1 cent sales tax increase to pay for roads.  But I have another question.  Why is every Alabama city considering raising sales taxes to pay for things like roads, schools, and other things.  Have we forgotten there are other ways to fund new things?

Some say a sales tax increase is the only fair way because everyone has to pay.  But it also takes away more money from people, especially poorer people.  Could we raise the gas tax that has not been done in over 20 years. Or could we increase the property tax, or add a tax to foods that makes us fat?  Cities and counties in Alabama have to quit relying on sales tax increases to fund things.  Several cities in Alabama have a 10% sales tax.  How long before the sales tax could be 11%, 12%, or even 13%?  Alabama has some of the highest sales taxes in the nation, we must come up with something more fairer than a sales tax.

If the City of Huntsville turns down the cost-sharing plan pitched by ALDOT, there will be virtually no construction on major roads such as Memorial Parkway and U.S. 72 for the next decade because of state funding woes.  That would mean standstill traffic, longer commute times and new industry choosing other cities with better roads.  It means you can kiss that Boeing contract goodbye.  Alabama has some of the worst maintained roads in the country, something in ALDOT needs to change, that is why I am a huge critic of ALDOT.

From AL.com

From AL.com

I love something that John Cooper said.  He said the ALDOT of old that covered the state with new highways is mostly a “memory,” replaced by an agency focused on maintaining existing roads.  So if ALDOT is focused on maintaining existing roads, why are they wanting to build a 52-mile, $5.45 Billion Northern Beltline?  Is it because it would relieve traffic from Downtown Birmingham?  Or is it because influential corporate interests are seeking to gain financially from development along the Northern Beltline and are dictating where Alabama’s transportation dollars go?

Look, ALDOT and the state of Alabama needs to do something about our road funding problems.  Low gas-tax revenues are merely a piece of the problem.  The state needs to fix our growing backlog of roads in desperate need of maintenance, but ALDOT has a different priority that will compete with funding for these fixes for the next 4 decades.  We should be building and maintaining roads that actually matter instead of building a six-lane freeway which I think won’t matter for fixing the traffic in Birmingham.  A good example is the TN 840 southern loop in the Nashville Metro.  It’s complete but way too long to be a good bypass around Nashville.

To sign a petition asking Governor Bentley to stop the Northern Beltline, go to:  http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/governor-bentley-stop-1

 

Roadscapes Wednesday: Interstate 10 Needs The Mobile River Bridge


Roadscapes Geek Alabama

I have talked about the need to replace the George Wallace Tunnel which carries Interstate 10 under the Mobile River.  The tunnels and the Mobile Bay Bridge only carry four lanes of traffic.  The problem is there is way too much traffic using the Interstate.  Baldwin County and the Eastern Shore has grown in the last 30 years, which means all of those people have to travel to Mobile on the outdated 4-lane freeway.  If a wreck or bad weather happens, good luck getting across Mobile Bay.  Some people still actually think the current facilities including the tunnels are fine, are they so wrong!

Now, supporters of a Mobile River Bridge are going to social media to talk about their message.  The Build the I-10 Bridge Facebook page debuted a few weeks ago, and there is over 5,000 likes already.  Like the page at: https://www.facebook.com/BuildTheI10Bridge

The George Wallace Tunnel is the main route for Interstate 10 and it opened in 1973.  The 4-lane tunnel was designed for 50,000 cars a day, but it typically carries 80,000 vehicles between downtown Mobile and the eastern shore.  That’s more than 29.2 million vehicles a year.  It was designed for 20 million a year.  The tunnel suffers from design flaws like a bad curve on one side of the tunnel and no breakdown lanes if something happens.  The tunnel sees traffic delays often; and when a vehicle breaks down or if there is an accident; good luck!  On normal traffic days the biggest problem is traffic that slows down while leaving the tunnel.  What is there to make you slow down; that is when you use your gas pedal to speed up!

The George Wallace Tunnel is the worst traffic choke point for the entire I-10 corridor that stretches from Jacksonville, FL to Los Angeles, CA.  The Jubilee Parkway across Mobile Bay is also a traffic choke point because there is not enough lanes and people like hogging the left lane.  Could that be the reason behind the 200 car pile up in 1995?  Some people do not want a new bridge because they say the proposed bridge visual and economic impact on the city could be harmed.  And large cruise ships can not get under the bridge to the Alabama Cruise Terminal.

Here’s the truth, I-10 traffic is variously predicted to triple or quadruple in the coming 50 years.  With enough lanes, or planned expansion opportunities built-in, the new bridge could easily handle future traffic capacity challenges.  If Florida can build two new 3-lane bridges across Escambia Bay, Alabama can build a new bridge to cross Mobile Bay.  There is even a Change.org petition started by FOX 10 News in Mobile to tell the Federal Highway Administration that Mobile needs a new bridge.  Sign at: http://www.change.org/petitions/federal-highway-administration-mobile-bay-needs-another-bridge-to-alleviate-daily-traffic-jams-tell-the-fha-to-help-alabama-drivers-by-choosing-a-design-for-the-new-bridge-today

ALDOT said it expects the Federal Highway Administration to issue a report with a preferred bridge route soon.  And state transportation officials estimate the entire bridge project will cost $850 million, with about 80 percent of the money coming from the federal government.  State leaders are also thinking about charging a toll to all traffic using the new bridge.  The tolls would be either with a responder or toll by license plate.  You would not stop to pay a toll.

To help build public support, the Mobile Chamber of Commerce has started a Build the Bridge Coalition.  Along with the Facebook page, the chamber is wanting the people to support the new bridge project, because it is badly needed!  In this photo below, route B is the route that is being considered the most.  Click on the picture to view the full PDF file.

I-10 Bridge

I hope the new Mobile River Bridge and Mobile Bay Bridge widening is something everyone will support and like.  There has been some suggestions that the people should have a say in the design of the new bridge and engineering firms and other people should be allowed to submit a bridge design.  I say that is a great idea, this bridge is something everyone in South Alabama will have to see for the next 100 years.  Alabama could design a bridge that the entire state can be proud of!

One thing is for sure; something has to be done to solve the traffic problems in Mobile, AL. If it’s a new bridge, new tunnels, or using existing infrastructure, the traffic choke-point on I-10 has got to go away and soon!

Sunday Discussion: Traffic Light Problems in Anniston/Oxford


Geek Alabama Discussion

NOTE: This post is being sent to all four TV stations in Birmingham.  This post is also being sent to The Anniston Star as well!  Enjoy video footage of the problems!

Last Saturday I experienced the worst traffic backup ever seen in Oxford!  Leon Smith Parkway at the new Publix and Oxford Exchange was filled with traffic jams.  It was so bad, traffic was backing up and blocking intersections!  I have talked about these traffic problems for a year now.  You think these traffic light problems are bad now, just wait until the Eastern Bypass opens!  Here’s a post talking about these issues from last December.

https://geekalabama.com/2012/12/20/roadscapes-wednesday-leon-smith-parkway/

I will begin with some pictures of the massive traffic backup.  Just take a look!

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I have contacted The City of Oxford and ALDOT about these malfunctioning traffic lights for close to a year now.  But nothing has been done!  The new traffic light at the Oxford Exchange / Publix is on a timer.  There are sensors installed in the pavement but they are not working.  The eastbound I-20 light is a big problem.  It only has 20 seconds of green light time for traffic heading north into Anniston.  That is a big reason all of this traffic backup occurred.

As you can see in this picture, the traffic backup in the exchange went back a long distance!

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The big reason for all of this traffic is the eastbound I-20 traffic light.  The short green light time and broken sensors is causing a big problem!

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With the light malfunctioning at the Oxford Exchange intersection.  This is causing the intersection to be blocked and this almost causes accidents.  So dangerous!

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These traffic backups are causing problems at the next intersection down.  When traffic backs up, people will run the stop sign to get out!

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The sad thing is the other side of the interstate also has problems!  The traffic lights at the Jimmy Hinton Dr. and I-20 westbound intersections are also not timed properly.  Turning right onto Leon Smith Parkway from the I-20 westbound ramp is very dangerous.

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Also, The other problem is with Jimmy Hinton Dr.  When only one car wants to go straight and the others wants to go right.  It backs up so much traffic that it blocks access to other businesses.

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This has been an ongoing issue with traffic light and road problems in the Anniston / Oxford area.  Many traffic lights in Anniston and Oxford have broken sensors and malfunctioning ped signals.  Also, Anniston decided to drop the speed limit to 35 along Greenbrier Dear Rd.  No one is going to follow this!

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I have been shocked that neither the cities or ALDOT have fixed these problems!  I guess getting the TV media involved will be the only way to fix this!  Here are some videos showing some of the malfunctioning traffic lights in Anniston and Oxford.  I guess it’s going to take someone getting killed before something is done!