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Rebuilding Atlanta’s Interstates

Even as new sections of interstate were being opened across the state, the Atlanta expressway system was jammed well beyond its intended capacity. The Downtown Connector, for example, had been designed in the 1940s for 44,000 vehicles daily, which was the number projected to be using the road by 1970. By 1956, however, 50,000 cars were already crowded onto the expressway every day. And by 1981 the daily count was 144,000, more than three times capacity, and still the same basic original design was in place.

Planning began in the early 1970s for a complete makeover of the system, including I-285, and work began a decade later.

On I-85 a completely new raised highway was built, with the “old” I-85 becoming a connector to Cheshire Bridge, Piedmont, and West Peachtree and Spring Streets. On the Downtown Connector several entrance and exit ramps were eliminated, allowing for longer acceleration and deceleration lanes for the remaining ramps and reducing traffic bottlenecks. High-occupancy-vehicle lanes were also added. S. J. Groves & Sons Co. of Minneapolis was awarded the largest contract in Georgia DOT history to that point, $63.5 million, to rebuild the I-75/I-85 connector at Brookwood. Two years later Jasper Construction Co., also of Minneapolis, rebuilt the I-85/I-285 intersection, with 6.4 miles of roadway, fourteen bridges, and thirty-four retaining walls.

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