With Two Major Events, Atlanta Prepares for Traffic to Slow to a Near Standstill

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Atlanta’s evening rush hour can be a grind at the best of times. But with a presidential debate scheduled for 9 p.m. and a Copa América soccer match kicking off at 6 p.m., the city is preparing for its traffic to go from bad to worse on Thursday evening.

Although traffic during the day was not noticeably worse, the city warned that venturing out later could lead to headaches.

“If you are planning an evening out in Atlanta, for the game, dinner or any other of our offerings, we encourage you to plan ahead and anticipate limited parking and heavier than usual traffic,” the city said in an advisory, noting several planned road closures around the debate venue.

The two events, the U.S. men’s soccer team vs. Panama and President Biden vs. former President Donald J. Trump, will take place only miles apart.

The debate is being held at the CNN’s headquarters in Midtown, a growing neighborhood of high-rise hotels, office buildings and condo towers. To the south, the 71,000-capacity Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the home of the Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta United FC, will host the soccer match.

Many visiting soccer fans said they were planning on walking or taking the MARTA, Atlanta’s light rail. Kellen Lowder, a 36-year-old engineer who came from Seattle to watch the game, said the double booking caught him by surprise.

“I knew the debate was happening, but didn’t realize it was in Atlanta until I spoke to the hotel front desk,” Mr. Lowder said. “They told us not to drive or Uber.”

Aga Villanueva, 43 and Pedro Valencia, 40, soccer fans in town from Chicago, were also caught off guard.

“I thought it would be in New York or something,” Mr. Villanueva said, before shrugging off worrying about anything happening outside the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“I’m not too concerned about politics right now, just the U.S.A. beating Panama,” he said.

There is another potential snarl looming. Pro-Palestinian organizations have planned two separate protests that they believe could draw several hundred demonstrators. The rallies have been billed as being against both Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden, and also the U.S. government’s longstanding support for Israel.

Protest organizers also encouraged demonstrators to take the MARTA.



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