Video: Traffic chokes Atlanta

By Don Teague Correspondent
NBC News
updated 4/28/2005 7:27:08 PM ET 2005-04-28T23:27:08

At 6:30 a.m. on a typical Tuesday morning, Jeulie Thao is already running behind. The mother of three is due at work by 8:30. Her office is 43 miles away, in midtown Atlanta. But first she has to make a trip to her in-laws to drop off the kids. No time for small talk. If she's not on the freeway by 7:15, she's late.

“It just takes forever and sometimes it gets really stressful” says Thao.

In a word, Thao's commute is painful, not to mention expensive.

“A good two full tanks of gas per week will get you through the week,” she says.

And she's obviously not alone. With Atlanta's expanding suburbs, the number of motorists like Thao, with one-way commutes of more than an hour, is growing. Two metro Atlanta counties rank among the worst in nation, with average commutes of more than 30 minutes.

“It's probably controlled chaos, and I think people on the road would probably go along with that as well,” says TV traffic reporter Jim Basile.

All big cities have traffic troubles, but Atlanta's problems are accelerating. Highway officials say the number of cars on some of the city's freeways has shot up by 20 percent in just five years.

Thirty miles north, 84-year-old Emory Reeves has watched the population explode in Alpharetta — from 3,000 in 1980 to 40,000 today.

“This goes on all day,” says Reeves as he stands beside a heavily-traveled road.

It's part of a dramatic population shift that the Census Bureau says will result in 143 million Americans living in Southern states in 25 years. That's up from 85 million in 1990.

After 35 years in the antiques business, Reeves says he's closing shop because of the traffic.

“It used to be farming country. Now the city folks have come up here,” says Reeves.

As for Jeulie Thao, rain-slicked roads and the inevitable accident up ahead meant one hour and 20 minutes just getting to work on a recent Tuesday. Eight hours later, she was back in the minivan for the long ride home.

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