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Spinning our Wheels

Spinning our Wheels is a commuting blog about the challenges of getting around Atlanta by car, bus, MARTA, bicycles and on foot written by transportation reporter David Wickert

Atlanta highways blooming as Georgia DOT seeks to improve 'curb appeal'

If you’ve been struck by fields of wildflowers blooming along highways around Atlanta recently, you’re not alone.

Hundreds of thousands of motorists a day have been treated to vistas of blooming cosmos and other flowers at major intersections around the Perimeter and along other state highways in recent weeks. They were planted by the Georgia Department of Transportation – part of its effort to beautify Peach State highways.

Christopher DeGrace, a landscape architect in charge of GDOT’s wildflower program, said Georgia will spend $750,000 this year planting daffodils, poppies and wildflowers. Most of the money comes from proceeds from two specialty license plates that support the program, though GDOT supplements that with money from its general budget.

DeGrace said the agency has planted 500,000 daffodils and 250 acres of wildflowers around the state, plus some poppies along U.S. 78 near Athens.

In the Atlanta area, GDOT has planted flowers along the Perimeter at Lawrenceville Highway, U.S. 78, I-675, I-75 south of the city and Riverside Drive. Because of construction of the Northwest Corridor Express Lanes and the new I-285/Ga. 400 interchange, it has avoided planting along the northern half of the Perimeter for now.

Usually, GDOT plants flowers in the spring. But this year it waited until June and July. The result has been some eye-popping blooms in recent weeks.

DeGrace said the public response from commuters has been phenomenal.

“We’ve probably had more phone calls than we’ve had in 15 years,” he said. “It’s curb appeal. We understand that’s important.”

Just one thing: GDOT urges you not to stop along the highway to take pictures. It’s dangerous.

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About the Author

David Wickert covers transportation issues for the Enterprise team. He joined the AJC in 2010 and has also covered local government in Gwinnett and Fulton counties.