Labor Day weekend is around the corner and as Georgians are preparing to mark the unofficial end of summer – whether that’s hitting the road or staying parked on their sofas – the Georgia Department of Transportation (Georgia DOT) forecasts the best and worst travel times during the holiday weekend, and is restricting interstate highway and major state route construction related lane closures from noon Friday, Sept. 3 through 5 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 7. Lane closures will also be limited on major state routes that directly serve key tourist and recreation centers.  

Traffic volumes on Georgia roadways have largely returned to pre-pandemic levels. Because Labor Day weekend 2020 showed significantly lower traffic volumes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Georgia DOT’s Transportation Management Center (TMC) analyzed data from the 2019 Labor Day weekend coupled with this summer’s recent traffic trends which indicate a likely increase of motorists on Georgia’s interstates. See below the 5-Day Forecast for metro Atlanta:

  • This Labor Day weekend (Friday, Sept. 3- Tuesday, Sept. 7), the TMC forecasts a boost in congestion in and around metro Atlanta interstates with the heaviest traffic on Friday, Sept. 3, starting as early as 12 p.m. 
  • Sunday, Sept. 5 and Monday, Sept. 6 (Labor Day) are predicted to have lighter than usual traffic.
  • On Tuesday, Sept. 7, traffic is expected to increase to normal weekday commute travel times with a slightly staggered morning rush as motorists are later getting back on the interstate.     

If you are planning to travel this upcoming holiday weekend, below are a few tips and insights on what to expect on metro Atlanta interstates and how to protect yourself as well as others on the road should an incident occur.
 
“This year, we anticipate traffic volumes will be closer to what we experienced in 2019 as Georgians head out on the roads this Labor Day weekend,” said Andrew Heath, P.E., Georgia DOT’s State Traffic Engineer. “With this heavier traffic in mind, we encourage travelers to plan their trips ahead, practice safe driving behaviors and most of all enjoy their holiday weekend as safely as possible.”

Tips for traveling like a pro:

  • Looking for the shortest travel times this holiday weekend? Data shows the quickest routes estimated are from the couch to your fridge.
  • If you do have to travel this holiday weekend, keep these timeframes in mind before hitting metro Atlanta interstates:
    • The best time for travel on weekends is typically early, before 10 a.m.
    • The busiest time to travel is typically 3-6 p.m. when drivers leave the city.
  • If traveling in or around metro Atlanta on Friday, Sept. 3, plan to add 30 minutes to your travel time due to increased congestion.
  • Consider using Georgia 511 to navigate safely and efficiently to your destination if you plan to drive out of town for Labor Day weekend.
    • Visit 511ga.org, download the free Georgia 511 app for turn-by-turn navigation and estimated travel times, and real-time travel speeds. Call 511 to speak with a live operator.

Safe driving tips:

  • If you find yourself traveling this holiday, do so safely with these best practices in mind:
    • Drive alert:
      • Don’t drive distracted or impaired. Stay focused on the road for any sudden incidents.
      • Don’t drive with excessive speed and maintain adequate distance with the vehicle in front of you.
      • Never get out of the car on an interstate, unless your life is in imminent danger. If possible, pull off the road, turn on your hazard lights and stay seat-belted in the vehicle with the doors locked until help arrives.
      • Remember to move over or slow down if an emergency vehicle is working an incident in the shoulder.
    • Make sure your vehicle inspection is up to date: 
      • Check conditions of your tires before you begin your trip. Make sure they are properly inflated and replace any tires that are worn, uneven or damaged.
      • Monitor gauges while driving. If a warning light appears, be sure to stop or safely pull over before trouble arises.
      • Prepare a safety kit. 
    • Remember HERO and CHAMP
      • Georgia motorists can dial 511 from any phone to request HERO or CHAMP assistance on Georgia interstates.
      • HERO assists motorists in metro Atlanta and CHAMP covers interstates outside of metro Atlanta (except I-59 and I-24).
      • Both services assist motorists by changing flat tires; jump-starting batteries; providing fuel or coolant; pushing vehicles to the shoulder; transporting motorists to safe areas away from traffic; performing minor mechanical repairs; and administering first aid.

Georgia DOT reminds drivers that crews may still work in proximity to highways to address safety and maintenance concerns that may require some long-term lane closures. In addition, incident or emergency related lane closures could become necessary at any time on any route. 

The public is urged to continue to follow the public health guidelines set forth by state and local agencies, as well as act courteously to fellow travelers.