One of the biggest questions metro Atlantans have had about the opening of SunTrust Park is traffic.
The new 42,000 seat stadium sits at the intersection of two major interstates – I-285 and I-75.
But local officials say they’re prepared.
I visited the Cobb County Traffic Management center to learn more.
There’s a problem with traffic in Cobb County - or at least one intersection, at the moment.
I’m sitting in the Cobb Department of Transportation’s Traffic Management Center, or TMC.
There’s a siren going off that indicates there’s something that needs addressing.
Whether it’s a traffic signal that’s stuck, or an accident on a surface street, it’s the TMC’s job to identify the problem and fix it.
“This is the heart of the Traffic Management Center,” Jim Wilgus of the Cobb County DOT tells me. “What we’re doing is we watch all of the cameras on the big wall that you see over there. When we see problems out there then we can adjust the signal timing directly from here. 550 signals.”
Wilgus is in charge of the 550 signals and making sure they run smoothly.
For the 40,000 people coming to SunTrust Park, there’s a traffic management plan that’s been in the works for almost three years.
According to the plan, an overwhelming majority of fans are estimated to drive to the games, so the Braves have worked with county officials to look at where traffic could – and often does – get congested.
Lieutenant J.D. Lorens is with the Cobb County Police:
“While crafting the transportation management plan, we identified 30 critical intersections that need to have some type of traffic management system in place.”
Those intersections funnel into more than a dozen access points to the stadium spread around the park.
Parking lots are spread out around the stadium too, so Wilgus says there’s no reason for drivers from around the state to take the exact same route.
“What we’ve tried to do is make sure, for instance, if you’re coming from the east, whether you’re going in 285 or coming from east Cobb, you’ll be parking in the east parking lots,” Wilgus said. “If you’re coming from the north, say Acworth, Kennesaw, we’re encouraging you to go to the north parking lots.”
One of the biggest pieces of solving the transportation puzzle relies on fans doing their homework before they leave home.
“One of the premises of the traffic plan is that folks buy their tickets early, they buy their parking early and online, and they trust technology to get them to the park,” Lorens adds.
The trust in technology lies with navigation app Waze. Fans are strongly encouraged to use Waze to find a direct route to each of the 20 or so team-owned parking lots.
There’s also a special rideshare pickup and drop-off lot for Uber riders looking to save time.
But there’s a new wrinkle that even the Braves couldn’t have planned for - the collapse of part of I-85.
Just like everything else in the traffic plan, adjustments will have to be made down the stretch as more time passes.