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Steve Rose Explains Flex Lanes Coming to Ga. 400, Next Week

A change is coming for North Fulton commuters, says Sandy Springs Police Spokesman Steve Rose. Even though you hear the blaring siren of the emergency vehicle coming up on you, don’t freak out.

Okay, here’s the thing.

I know that you’re already saying to yourself “Driving on Ga. 400 couldn’t get much more fun than it is.”

Well, it’s going to.

Yes. The new reality show called “Flex Lanes” is coming to 400 on May 14.

For those of you who are not familiar, let me explain: The following was proposed and put into play by Governor Nathan Deal: Beginning on May 14, a Monday, the southbound lanes from Holcomb Bridge Road south to the North Springs MARTA Station will include the lane, formerly known as the emergency lane, now called the Flex Lane. 

The emergency lane is that lane all the way to the right which has been in the past, used for emergencies and those wanting to exit onto Northridge from 400 southbound and occasionally, those who are just rude and decided they were entitled. First of all, the Flex Lanes will include that area of Northridge Road.

When traffic stacks up, drivers tend to move over to the emergency lane anywhere from a hundred yards or so to a quarter mile, depending on how heavy the flow of traffic is. That now being the Flex Lane will operate as a traffic lane and the exiting traffic will hamper that process, or at least it seems that way. Beyond that, merging traffic from Northridge now has a lane to utilize, much like the southbound lane from Holcomb Bridge Road. 

Entering traffic will have plenty of roadway to gradually merge if they need to but can use the lane as far as the MARTA exit.

Tell me in the comments if you think Flex Lanes are good idea?

Another question that comes up is what about emergency vehicles? 

First, every lane has a number. If you’re looking down the road and the median wall is on the left, the lane on the far left is the no. 1 lane. Number one being next to the median wall, then no. 2, 3, 4, and so on.

That being said, our emergency vehicles, being fire trucks, police cars, and me trying to get to work, will utilize the space between the no. 1 lane and no. 2 lane. In order for this to work, those in the no. 1 lane would shift left to use that small space next to the median, you know, the one where all the car bumpers, ladders and for some reason, yellow construction helmets, pile up, and those in the no. 2 lane will shift right a foot or two. That will leave room, although not much, to maneuver emergency vehicles.

Now, remember this: Even though you hear the blaring siren of the emergency vehicle coming up on you, don’t freak out. They are moving not much faster than you and they know that it takes a few seconds to merge so don’t do a hard left or right into the wall or your buddy there in the no. 3 lane.

Merge best you can and then, well, honestly, that’s when you’ll probably freak out but you can only go as far as you can. Each lane is about 12 feet in width and most cops are good drivers as are fire department personnel—mostly because they sit around the fire house playing Grand Theft Auto. 

What about car accidents?

I’m going out on a limb here but I predict there will be a fender-bender or two. Just putting it out there. There are about six cutaway spaces carved to the right of the Flex Lane between Holcomb Bridge Road and the MARTA Station.

If the car is drivable and you are not injured, move off the roadway and find one of the cutaways, called “Accident Investigation Sites.” Pull in there where there is plenty of room for you cars and you’re free to walk in circles and curse as loud as you want. We will have a large response truck parked in the area to respond to accidents to assist downed motorists off the roadway.

So, as if you’re patience isn’t thin enough already in the golden hours of drive time in the morning, we’re asking for a bit more.

Now, that being said, we will closely monitor this and quite frankly, I would be interested in your feedback to the Patch’s comments section or e-mail at srose@sandyspringsga.gov or @captsteverose on Twitter or a note stuck to my door with a knife. (I’ll take the latter as a hint that you’re not happy with it.)

At any rate, chill out. Dig your Enya CD out of the closet and play it between Holcomb Bridge Road and the MARTA Station. Get into some serious mellow on the drive in. If it works, keep on a playin' it.

Patti Kush May 08, 2012 at 05:49 PM
As someone who rides the bus down 400 to the North Springs Station, I am not happy about the flex lanes, since it means my bus will not have an advantage over other traffic, and I may miss my train. I think we should be encouraging people to use public transportation rather than drive their cars, and this discourages the use of transit. I am also very concerned about emergency vehicles being able to get through if there is a bad accident. I would hate for someone who is seriously injured to have to wait longer for EMTs to get to the scene because people can now drive in the flex lane. I am also not sure the additional lane will help that much. The drive between Holcomb Bridge and the North Springs Station is very congested, but the worst points of congestion are the places where the people are merging from Holcomb Bridge and Northridge. It seems to me that this will just cause more people to have to merge, since the people using the "flex lane" from Holcomb to Northridge will have to then get back to the left temporarily until they can get back in the lane after the exit.
Erin May 09, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Thank GOD my commute is from Holcomb Bridge, north to McFarland in the mornings!! I don't see how this is a good idea. Congestion is the least of my worries. I'm with Patti, I'd hate for someone suffering from a life threatening injury or ailment be made to wait (maybe too long) any longer for help either to get to them or to transport them to the hospital. HELLO!?!?! That's also the same way to many of the cities best hospitals.
Melanie Jean Romanaux May 10, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Well written, Steve - I really appreciate your voice in this blog. We'll see how the lanes work out. I'd like to think that most of us are smart enough and awake enough to move out of the way as quickly as possible for emergency vehicles.

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