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

The envelope please ... This Atlanta highway interchange wins the award for worst truck bottleneck


It’s awards season, and Atlanta can justifiably boast about its ties to some of this year’s Oscar nominees. But the region has won at least one award that it probably won’t be bragging about.

The American Transportation Research Institute has again named Spaghetti Junction the worst truck bottleneck in the country.

The trucking industry group monitors congestion at 300 locations across the nation’s highways. It ranked them using GPS data from trucks that showed how slowly they moved compared to the speed limit at each location. The volume of truck traffic was also a factor. Spaghetti Junction's average speed: 37 mph.

Flashback photos: Spaghetti Junction Through The Years

It’s the third straight year Spaghetti Junction has topped the APTI’s list. But just about every major Atlanta highway interchange made the institute’s top 100 bottlenecks this year. The others included:

*No. 4: I-75 at I-285 (north)

*No. 17: I-20 at I-285 (west)

*No. 46: I-20 at I-285 (east)

*No. 79: I-20 at I/75/85

*No. 90: I-75 at I-85

*No. 95: I-75 at I-675

Despite its many dubious interchanges, ATRI President Rebecca Brewster – an Atlanta resident – said she sees progress on fixing the region’s highways. Georgia’s $11 billion, 10-year plan for major highway construction includes rebuilding both I-20 interchanges at I-285, as well as express lanes on the Perimeter that may ease traffic at other interchanges.

That, of course, is one of the goals of the ranking: To shame governments into fixing problem interchanges. Illinois has begun to fix Chicago’s Circle Interchange (I-290 at I-90), which topped the bottleneck list for three consecutive years. It’s now just the third-worst interchange, behind Spaghetti Junction and New Jersey’s I-95 at SR 4.

Spaghetti Junction has now tied the Chicago interchange for most appearances atop the list since 2011. Barring dramatic improvements to Atlanta traffic (and who are we kidding?), Spaghetti Junction should become the undisputed Meryl Streep of truck bottlenecks next year.


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About the Author

David Wickert writes about transportation issues for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He previously worked for newspapers in Washington state, Illinois, Virginia and Tennessee.