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Nancy Badertscher
By Nancy Badertscher December 2, 2014

Deal on track with toll pledge

Problems with traffic congestion have been threatening economic development efforts in metro Atlanta in recent years.

During the 2010 race for governor, Nathan Deal announced his transportation plan, "Real Mobility," which called for construction of new toll lanes to give commuters greater choice and to expand interstate capacity.

They're expensive, time-consuming and works in progress.
The first high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes opened along I-85 in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties in 2011. They were developed using existing lanes, rather than new construction. Since then, other projects have been announced that involve new construction.

Here are the details of toll lane activity in metro Atlanta:

  • In October 2011, 16 miles of high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on I-85 were converted to HOT lanes that require a Peach Pass. The lanes stretch from Old Peachtree Road through Gwinnett County to Chamblee-Tucker Road in DeKalb. Peach Pass pricing fluctuates, with the goal of keeping traffic flowing in the HOT lanes at 45 mph 90 percent of the time. Motorists can ride toll-free if they are registered and have at least two additional passengers.
  • Extension planned: Pending environmental approval, 10 extra miles of toll lanes are to be added from Old Peachtree Road north to Hamilton Mill Road on I-85 at a projected cost of $110 million. They would have the same rules as the existing HOT lanes and provide new capacity if they open, as scheduled for summer 2018.
  • Forecast to open in early 2017: Toll lanes begin on I-75 south of Atlanta at Ga. 155/McDonough Road and end at Ga. 138/Stockbridge Highway, including about 12 miles of managed lanes. (Two reversible express lanes will be in the median of I-75.) Projected costs: $176 million.
  • Forecast to open in early 2018: The "Northwest Corridor" project will 29.7 miles of toll lanes along I-75 from Akers Mill Road to Hickory Grove Road and along I-575 from I-75 to Sixes Road. (Two express lanes will be built to the west of the existing lanes along I-75 between I-285 and I-575. From that interchange, one express lane will be added along I-75 north to Hickory Grove Road and one express lane will be added along I-575 to Sixes Road.) Projected costs: $834.1 million.

The Northwest Corridor and I-75 South express lanes would be new capacity, reversible toll lanes. They would not be HOT lanes because only registered transit and emergency vehicles would be exempt from the tolls.

Our conclusion

Gov. Nathan Deal promised in his first campaign that the state would build more HOV/toll lanes to give commuters greater choice and to expand interstate capacity. We see that has happened or is in the works for the northeast, northwest and south sides of Atlanta.

As the governor prepares to assume a second term in office, we rate this a Promise Kept.

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