Traffic congestion in Atlanta manifested itself early in the city’s history as pedestrians, horse-drawn vehicles, and electric streetcars moved sluggishly amid many at-grade railroad crossings.

Atlanta’s population of nearly 90,000 in 1900 tripled by 1930 and automobiles filled the streets. An early remedy included the construction of downtown bridges and viaducts over the downtown rail lines beginning in the 1920s.

As the city’s population escalated in the mid–twentieth century, so did traffic challenges. As the number of suburban residents grew, the Georgia Department of Transportation responded by improving Atlanta’s four interstate highways.

Today, Atlanta’s traffic congestion is rated among the worst in the nation. Some efforts to ease the gridlock include widened roads, synchronizing traffic lights, as well as designating HOV and express toll lanes. Counties now pass their own Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes (SPLOST) to expedite local road improvements.

“Our traffic situation is an unanticipated result of how well we’ve done,” says Sam Williams, former president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber. Today, with the metropolitan area spanning twenty–eight counties, regional long-term transportation planning is the key to solving Atlanta’s traffic woes.

Cover Image: Traffic on the downtown connector, ca. 1973.

Image: Kenan Research Center, Boyd Lewis Photographs

Next: 39 Neighborhoods.

Atlanta is known for its diversity of neighborhoods, both historic and contemporary.