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How Are Those “HOT” Lanes Working Out?

October 3, 2011

The AJC is reporting that they’re mostly empty today, the first normal workday since “HOT” lanes went into effect on part of I-85 between Atlanta and Gwinnett County.

Early reports from the scene indicated few motorists were using the lanes. DOT cameras showed the lanes mostly empty on the Gwinnett County portion of I-85.

One commuter offered an explanation on Twitter: “I don’t think many people are going to use them, cost of commuting is bad enough, not going to pay any extra on top of that.”

Another, however, found the empty lanes a big plus: “It took me 6 minutes on the toll lane from Steve Reynolds to 285. Never got to work [before] in 25 minutes with traffic.”

The AJC also has photos.

WSB Radio noted criticism that the lanes may not actually decrease traffic.

The toll lane is supposed to ease traffic congestion by providing an alternative to drivers.  However, not everyone thinks the project is a good idea for Georgia.

Brian Gist is a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.  He says the project gives little back in the way of return for the average driver.

“We’re spending millions of taxpayer dollars to give people a choice between paying a toll or sitting in congestion,” said Gist.

Gist says if you’re one of the people who can afford to drive in that lane, you will see improved driving conditions.

“But if you are one of the people who can’t afford to drive in these lanes and paying a $6 toll is probably not a legitimate option for most people day in and day out.  You are using this money to build lanes that aren’t going to improve driving conditions in all the rest of the lanes.” said Gist.

He says at best the express lanes are a Band-Aid, not a cure for the problem.

“Rather than spending incremental amounts of money on road projects that aren’t getting us much in return, perhaps our money is better spent saving up and spending on large projects that are really going to change the way we get around in Atlanta and give us a real choice in our transportation option,” said Gist.

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