Atlanta's New I-85 Express Lanes Off To Rough Start

Choosing the Goldilocks price for a congestion-priced toll lane is no easy task - as the Georgia Dept. of Transportation has discovered after the first week of operation of the I-85 Express Lanes through parts of Gwinnett and DeKalb counties.

The 10-slide photo gallery of the empty express lane by the congested 'general purpose lanes' and the video of irate motorists say it all. In addition to potentially choosing too high a price range, the high-occupancy-vehicle (carpool) lane conversion to the high-occupancy-toll (HOT or Express) lane was accompanied by disallowing free access of 2-person carpools - only 3+ carpools, motorcycles, vehicles with alternative fuel license plates, and public transit buses travel at no cost.

Consequently, Governor Nathan Deal reduced the toll on Oct. 6 and requested a waiver to allow free access for 2-person carpools.

"Before Deal's action, the maximum that had actually been charged to travel the full 16 miles was $5.50; under the new pricing it will be $3.05, Robinson (his spokesman) said. That's a 44.5 percent decrease; Robinson indicated that similar reductions would apply across the board.

Deal also pledged Thursday to ask the federal government for a waiver allowing two-person vehicles to use the lanes free. That request could run afoul of a legal requirement that the HOT lanes flow at 45 mph or better."

From GDOT: I-85 Express Lanes:
"Registered vehicles can use Express Lanes for a fee that will vary dynamically based on the number of vehicles using the system. The fee will be set to ensure free flowing traffic and reliable trip times in Express Lanes. Visit the PeachPass website to register your vehicle."

Thanks to Bob Poole

Full Story: Deal lowers tolls on I-85 HOT lanes-with video



Irvin Dawid's picture

Not just Georgia DOT, also Tollway Authorty, MPO, more

Quite an array of regional, state and federal agencies put this project together, though it appears to be Gov. Deal who is taking responsibility, a good political move, IMO.

Per the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) webpage, I-85 Express Lanes, "This initiative is being implemented by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), the State Road & Tollway Authority (SRTA), the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) and a number of federal, regional and local transportation partners."

However, it does seem that SRTA is the lead agency. It is the "state-level, independent Authority created by the Georgia General Assembly to operate tolled transportation facilities within the State and act as the transportation financing arm for the State." Here's their Sept. 30 press release (PDF):
I-85 Express Lanes Open TONIGHT at Midnight

Another excellent article on the rough start of the express lanes can be found in TollRoads News: GA/I-85 Express Lanes' wild start - tolls too high, lanes near empty, Governor steps in.

Finally, please note that Planetizen covered the development of the express lanes last year: A toll lane is coming to a Georgia interstate highway -- a first for the state.

...Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

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