DOT asks: Ga. 400 HOT lanes?
HOT lanes on Ga. 400?
The Georgia Department of Transportation is holding three public meetings in Fulton and Forsyth counties this month to explain the idea and gauge public opinion. The state is planning a network of optional toll lanes across metro Atlanta’s interstates, and Ga. 400 north of the Perimeter is a prime target.
If approved, they would take several years to implement on Ga. 400, and would likely come well after projects on I-75 in Henry County and on I-75 and I-575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties.
Like the HOT lanes on I-85 in Gwinnett County, the lanes would be tolled electronically. The toll price would rise and fall along with congestion in the main lanes, always aiming to stay high enough to thin out toll lane traffic so it’s free-flowing.
Although state officials say public opinion will influence what is built, there is no public vote on the decision. But officials are making their case all the same — a tough job, judging by comments at the first meeting, which was Tuesday night at a school in Roswell.
A comment board for attendees blistered with protest. “NO TOLLS,” someone scrawled in 3-inch-high orange letters. Others wrote that it was “another dumb idea” and “self-defeating.”
They said the same in interviews. “Judging by the, shall we say, phenomenal success of I-85,” scoffed Alpharetta retiree Alexander Williamson, “I think that needs a rethought.”
Unlike the I-85 HOT lane, which converted the free HOV lane into a pay lane, the Ga. 400 project could add a new lane. That also would make it much more expensive than the I-85 lane, which cost about $50 million or $60 million to implement. Such lanes generally don’t recoup all their costs in toll revenue.
State officials said they do not have enough money to add lanes in the traditional manner. They say that with optional toll lanes, at least every commuter will have the option of deciding whether they can pay to take the toll lanes.
Say it ain’t so? Still, as pointed out in the article, this is not the same thing as the HOT lane debacle on I-85. In that case the DOT converted an existing lane into a HOT lane, angering many people who felt their taxes had already paid for that lane and now they were being asked to pay more. In the case of the possible GA-400 HOT lanes, the proposed HOT lanes would be totally new lanes. The DOT says they can’t pay for these new lanes with them being HOT. So, in this case, it seems like it might be new HOT lanes, or no new lanes at all. That’s a trade off that is worth thinking about.
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