Kempner: I-85 collapse an economic fork in the road


If there’s anything we aspire to in metro Atlanta, it is to be a community on the move.

So the collapse of an interstate bridge — of I-85 no less in Buckhead — feels like the caving in of Atlanta’s femoral artery.

This one won’t kill us. It will, though, hurt us. We know it will make our drives more miserable. And it will again remind us that the limits of our transportation system might be metro Atlanta’s biggest economic handicap.

The shock of it will lead to demands for fixes and solutions, because that’s what we do after such things.

We’ll come up with some. And some may actually be put in place before attention wanes.

It happened after Snowmaggedon, when a sheen of ice made all our concrete and asphalt and sophisticated traffic systems look insignificant. So our leaders did what we expected them to: they got more snow equipment and deicing stuff and promised that next time they would send us home earlier, long before ice could block us in.

This I-85 collapse presents a much more difficult job than getting ice to melt in the South.

The eventual repair of the hole in our interstate will not make our mobility or our economy any less vulnerable than they were before.

Doing anything more than that looks like a monumental task. It is neither cheap nor fast to buy more interstates and lay fresh MARTA rails.

But in the meantime, the I-85 collapse — like the longer running collapse of the efficiency and predictability of our commutes in general — will add momentum to another kind of change already underway.

It’s not driven so much by big government fixes, but by hundreds of thousands of Atlantans making changes in their daily lives.

It’s the millennials and empty nesters who are already opting to move intown and cut miles from their commutes. It’s the folks who choose to live near beefed-up town centers in the suburbs where sometimes they can really walk to things that are worth walking to. And it’s people who have discovered that often they can work from their dining room table just as easily as they can from an office 20 miles away.

We’re figuring out workarounds, some of which are a revelation. Which is exactly what we need when a hole gets busted in our mighty interstate.

There’s always more than one way to go.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Business

Long waits mar new Uber, Lyft pickup plan at Hartsfield-Jackson
Long waits mar new Uber, Lyft pickup plan at Hartsfield-Jackson

The Atlanta airport’s new ride-share pickup location drew complaints from both drivers and passengers after long waits and traffic backups Thursday, when many fliers return from business trips. During the peak Thursday night period, some passengers said they waited as long as 40 minutes or more for ride-share drivers to reach them after being...
Total solar eclipse 2017 in Georgia: What’s the cost to business?
Total solar eclipse 2017 in Georgia: What’s the cost to business?

Turns out there is one way to look at an eclipse without harming your eyes: through the lens of economics. Sure, it’s not romantic and not inspiring and not exactly scientific either – even if they do call economics, “the dismal science.” And sure, The Great American Eclipse – surely is a spectacular moment that demands...
KPMG and Atlanta auditor pay $6 million-plus to settle SEC charges
KPMG and Atlanta auditor pay $6 million-plus to settle SEC charges

Accounting firm KPMG LLP and one of its Atlanta-based partners agreed to pay more than $6 million in penalties to settle allegations that a flawed audit allowed a Tennessee oil company to defraud investors. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Atlanta office, which investigated the case, said KPMG’s audit failed to catch assets...
Georgia jobless rate ticks down despite weak hiring
Georgia jobless rate ticks down despite weak hiring

The Georgia unemployment rate dipped in July, but so did hiring as the economy continued several months of stop-and-go. After a very strong June, the state’s economy lost 14,500 jobs last month. But the jobless rate, calculated from a different survey, edged down from 4.8 percent to 4.7 percent, the state Labor Department said Thursday. The unemployment...
Trail network pitched for south Atlanta ‘aerotropolis’
Trail network pitched for south Atlanta ‘aerotropolis’

Could the next Beltline be on Atlanta’s southside? That’s the goal of an ambitious greenway concept for the “aerotropolis” area surrounding Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The vision is for a network of trails and bike paths connected across the hodgepodge of cities and counties in south Metro Atlanta — and connected...
More Stories