A few inches of snow and freezing temperatures have left Atlanta a mess over the past 24 hours, as hundreds of accidents and abandoned cars created gridlock.
One problem is that the region isn’t used to snow. Another is that the traffic around Atlanta is terrible, even on good days.
So when bad conditions are thrown into the mix, things get ugly.
According to the 2012 Annual Urban Mobility Report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Atlanta’s traffic is the seventh worst among major metropolitan areas.
Drivers there waste an average of 51 hours in traffic each year, burning 23 extra gallons of gas. That adds up to a cost of $US1,120 per commuter annually.
The American Society of Civil Engineers sheds some light on why things are so bad. Its 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure includes detailed looks at each of the 50 states. For Georgia, it’s not pretty.
The state has the ninth largest interstate system in the country, but it ranks 49th in per capita transportation funding. Its fuel excise tax is just 7.5 cents per gallon. Thanks to old investments, its road quality is better than the national average, but things are getting worse now that funding has dried up.
In the capital city, bad roads means lots of traffic. “Along many major metro Atlanta region corridors,” the reports says, “inadequate capacity and substandard interchanges have created congestion and safety issues.” Only a “small percentage” of the 1,300 traffic signals in Atlanta are synchronised. In Los Angeles, all 4,500 signals are synched up to keep vehicles flowing smoothly.
Atlanta ranks fourth worst in the country for truck freight delay, costing about $US775 million in 2011.
Beyond monetary cost, bad roads and traffic lead to lives lost. In 2011, Georgia reported 12.46 traffic fatalities per 100,000 people, compared to the national average of 10.39 (both numbers are down significantly from 2009).
Meanwhile, a poor public transportation system discourages people from giving up driving. ” “Even though GA drivers face congestion on a daily basis, the inability of state and local agencies to provide the necessary funding for meaningful transit has created a backlog of needs that are not likely to be addressed in the near future,” according to the report.
“Metro Atlanta’s current system of multiple transit providers is inefficient, as well as time-consuming and confusing to the users.”
So even on sunny days, Atlanta’s a poor place to drive. No wonder it’s a complete mess when bad weather hits.
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