Interstate 85, shown before the fire, runs below the skyline of midtown Atlanta. (Photo: Sean Pavone, Shutterstock)

Emergency Situation Breeds Innovation in Atlanta

Though Interstate 85 is a major thoroughfare for Atlanta residents, a large section of it will be out of commission until at least June 15 due to an alleged intentional arson. On the evening of March 30 a massive fire led to the collapse of a 100-foot-long section of an I-85 bridge. Inspectors have now determined that 350 feet of lanes in each direction of the collapsed bridge will need to be replaced.

In response to this crisis Atlanta sprang into action. Two weeks after the collapse, the City of Atlanta launched CommuteATL, an online platform designed to help residents and visitors plan their travel while the I-85 bridge is under construction.

CommuteATL gives residents and visitors access to real-time road information. (Image: The City of Atlanta)

The map pulls in real-time travel alerts from the traffic and navigation app Waze, including information on road closures, accidents, and current travel speeds. For users looking to avoid getting behind the wheel, the map also shows real-time schedules for the Atlanta Streetcar and MARTA bus and rail schedules, as well as parking lot conditions. It also incorporates the locations of Relay Bike Share stations in downtown Atlanta.

CommuteATL can get traffic alerts and bypass car accidents or other hazards. (Image: The City of Atlanta)

“We hope CommuteATL will assist people as they make plans to travel to work, to school, or to any of the special events happening in our city,” said Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Public Works Commissioner William Johnson. “As we work to mitigate traffic congestion, our primary focus is preserving access for our first responders and to hospitals. We want everyone to make it to their destination safely, and we hope this new tool can help in this effort.”

Atlanta was able to launch CommuteATL so quickly thanks to two partnerships. First, in 2016 it joined the Waze Connected Citizen Program, which is a free data-sharing partnership. The city was also accepted into the 100 Resilient Cities network in 2016, a $100 million investment from the Rockefeller Foundation to make cities more adaptable in the 21st century. Through its involvement with 100 Resilient Cities, Atlanta was able to work with Esri, a geospatial analytics provider. Esri enables CommuteATL by providing the use of GIS, mapping and location analytics. Through the 100 Resilient Cities program Esri provides cities such as Atlanta with access to its ArcGIS platform, as well as technical support and guidance to implement these tools.

Kate DeNardi
About Kate DeNardi
Kate DeNardi is 21st Century State & Local's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs
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