Today’s AJC Deja News comes to you from the Wednesday, October 15, 1969, edition of The Atlanta Constitution.
There’s another I-285 out there, Atlanta, and it’s nothing like ours.
There it is, y'all: Proof that another I-285 exists nowhere near the metro Atlanta area. North Carolina's I-285 connects Lexington with Winston-Salem. BRENT IVY / AAROADS.COM
It lives in North Carolina and has a cute name – the Winston-Salem Connector. Down here, we just call I-285 what it is: the Perimeter. Atlanta’s Perimeter is 50 years old. North Carolina’s Connector? It’s a mere baby about to celebrate its first birthday this November.
“This new interstate is great news for the Triad region and all of North Carolina,” Governor Roy Cooper said in 2018. “Interstates serve as a catalyst for economic growth and make it easier for people and goods to get where they need to go.”
MORE DEJA NEWS>> Check out what we’ve covered before (and again)
It's been 50 years since the complete I-285 circuit opened in October 1969. But the Perimeter hasn't quite lived up to the lofty vision of state officials. AJC PRINT ARCHIVES
Photo: AJC PRINT ARCHIVES
Gov. Cooper’s enthusiasm for his state’s new highway echoes Georgia officials’ praise for I-285 leading up to the official opening of the road encircling Atlanta on October 15, 1969. They believed the Perimeter would cure everything ailing Atlanta traffic. Gov. Lester Maddox even rode the hood of a Mercury Marquis to mark the monumental event.
“Officials are predicting all kinds of glorious things will happen with the opening of I-285,” the Constitution’s Gene Stephens wrote of the event, “including an immediate demise of truck traffic through the downtown interstate connector.”
Georgia State Revenue Commissioner Peyton Hawes saw I-285 as “a time-saving boon to our trucking industry.”
“By ridding our downtown freeways of unnecessary truck traffic, we should help ease highway congestion for the automobile driver immediately,” Hawes told the AJC.
Learn more about the iconic Atlanta interstate in the AJC's "5 things to know" series.
Video: Mandi Albright/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
When opened, the Perimeter was a welcome alternative to city through-traffic. Now it’s as crowded, dangerous and deadly as any of Atlanta’s interstates. In fact, it’s held the ignominious title of America’s deadliest highway. In 2013, I-285 had more fatal accidents per mile than any other interstate for the year.
Georgia Department of Transportation statistics show that more than 20,000 trucks a day travel parts of I-285. And when they have an accident, metro Atlanta drivers pay the price in lost time in traffic. Now, the state pays for express cleanup, too.
“GDOT has been paying private wrecking companies in metro Atlanta a bonus of up to $3,500 to clear truck accidents in 90 minutes or less,” the AJC’s David Wickert reports. “The Towing, Recovery and Incentive Program (TRIP) has proven so successful the agency may take it statewide.
“Last year, GDOT used the TRIP program to clear truck accidents in metro Atlanta 258 times. In August of this year, it used the program 25 times – or nearly once a day, on average,” Wickert writes.
MORE PHOTOS>> Weird things that have snarled Atlanta traffic
So how can this be, this double-dose of I-285s? Isn’t one plenty for the Southeast?
“As part of the original numbering setup of the Interstate System in 1956,” Brent Ivy of AARoads.com explains, “beltways and connecting interstate highways occurring along a primary interstate (say, I-85) in different states can have the same number.
In the early '80s, Braves pitcher Pascual Perez wore a team jacket with "I-285" stitched on the back after driving the Perimeter three times and missing a scheduled start. BEVERLY CRAWFORD / AJC PHOTO ARCHIVES
Photo: Beverly Crawford/AJC
But no matter how many I-285s pop up elsewhere, Atlanta’s Perimeter has cemented its status as an iconic roadway, for better or worse.
When $175,000 flew out the doors of an armored truck back in July, I-285 drivers risked life, limb and arrest to engage in a cash grab that made national headlines. Few who took advantage of the ‘Perimeter Payoff’ returned any money to police. The total returned currently stands at a meager $6,201.
The late Braves pitcher Pascual Perez made I-285 a fashion statement in August 1982 when the interstate’s moniker showed up on his warm-up jacket after Perez drove the full circumference of the Perimeter (62.9 miles) three times, looking for Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
He missed his start.
NOTE: Thanks to astute readers John Champion and Sam Shepherd for pointing out that Gov. Maddox was riding a Mercury Marquis, not a Cadillac, as originally written.
ABOUT DEJA NEWS
In this series, we scour the AJC archives for the most interesting news from days gone by, show you the original front page and update the story.
If you have a story you’d like researched and featured in AJC Deja News, send an email with as much information as you know. Email: <a href="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>. Use the subject line “AJC Deja News.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.
ATLANTA - It's now been 50 years since getting around Atlanta changed forever.
Interstate 285 now moves 2 million people a day around the city.
The interstate initially started off with two lanes in each direction. By the time Atlanta hosted the Olympics, it widened to five lanes.
On Oct. 15, 1969, I-285 officially opened to drivers.
Tom Moreland spent more than 30 years with Georgia Department of Transportation. He said 285 was an innovative concept and something that was badly needed.
"All our highways are important but this one serves a unique purpose of the collector/distributor for the other interstates and also a great service to local traffic," Moreland said.
When $175,000 flew out the doors of an armored truck back in July, I-285 drivers risked life, limb and arrest to engage in a cash grab that made national headlines. Few who took advantage of the ‘Perimeter Payoff' returned any money to police. The total returned currently stands at a meager $6,201.
The late Braves pitcher Pascual Perez made I-285 a fashion statement in August 1982 when the interstate's moniker showed up on his warm-up jacket after Perez drove the full circumference of the Perimeter (62.9 miles) three times, looking for Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
He missed his start.
GDOT uses data to plan 20-years ahead, keeping growth patterns in mind. But it's not an exact science.
"Often we have to be reactionary, as well as making improvements, such as we plan to do very soon and make some improvements in and around 285 while we get ready for express lanes to come on in about five years by the time construction actually starts," said GDOT commissioner Russell McMurry.
GDOT is using what it's learned from express lanes on 75 and 85.
"What we've seen is that people that choose to use express lanes save 30-45 minutes a trip," McMurry said.
Officials are hoping for the same success on I-285.
"The people that are staying in the normal lanes are enjoying traffic about 10 or 15 miles an hour faster, and we've seen the time of congestion shrink by about an hour," McMurry said.
Before the express lanes on I-285, there will be interchange improvements and bridge replacements.
Crews will also continue to expand I-85 north and east into Jackson County to help deal with the heavy volume of freight transport.
© 2019 Cox Media Group.