Commuters endure road closure

Being situated in downtown Atlanta, Tech sees some of its students, faculty and staff commute regularly to campus. However, commuters who come to campus from I-75/85 and exit via Techwood Drive are having to find a different way of coming to school.

Starting Feb. 9, The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) began shutting down roads near 14th Street bridge.

These closures are the first indications of the Fourteenth Street Bridge Improvement Project, also known as “First Aid for the 14th.” The project will add two new exit ramps to the bridge, as well as place sidewalks on the bridge and streets connecting to it.

Originally planned to break ground this spring, the transition to the construction phase has already begun.

On the project’s website, www.14thstreetbridge.com, interested parties can look up “the what, the why and how” of the construction project. The website states that the alterations will help the surrounding Midtown area see a 30 percent reduction in travel congestion.

It is projected that there will be less gridlock on I-85, although Techwood Drive will still see a fairly heavy volume of traffic during rush hour.

This construction will cause temporary changes and alterations to the current traffic conditions. Traffic on the downtown connector will be greatly impacted.

“Delays are to be expected. At times, traffic will be paced and lanes shifted,” said the GDOT website. “Northbound traffic will be detoured to the 10th Street Bridge, and southbound traffic to the 17th Street Bridge once the 14th Street Bridge closes.”

The enforced delays will be lifted during higher risk travel times, such as holiday weekends and in periods of inclement weather.

The total group of road closures will include one lane of Williams Street, the section of Techwood Drive between 10th Street and 16th Street and the I-85 and I-75 southbound ramps to 10th and 14th. Signs on the southbound side of I-75 will be placed to encourage traffic to exit the highway at Northside Drive.

In order to deal with the road closures, commuters coming to campus will need to use 5th Street or 10th St. by way of Spring Street in order to avoid the construction. Some see the construction as an obstacle to their regular campus commute.

“It’s purely a great inconvenience for getting off campus that way,” said Jeff Baldino, an Aerospace Engineering major. However, other students don’t necessarily share the same level of concern with the construction on the bridge.

Outside of the people who are driving to and from campus, local Tech traffic will also be affected. A new Stinger Green Route will be implemented to bypass the construction on the bridge.

GDOT officials are optimistic about the effect the construction will have on the downtown commute. “In the short term, it will affect traffic patterns greatly. Basically, the good thing is that it will be taking less time. We worked with Midtown Alliance and will only have to shortly inconvenience the public,” said Katina Lear, GDOT’s District Seven Communication Specialist.

Lear also believes that with the help of businesses giving employees incentives to use mass transit, the project will come close to fulfilling its projected goals of congestion relief.

Officials say that the roads should be completed and functional by May 10, 2010.