Georgia HOT Lanes Create Congestion, Disappointment

The Newspaper
by The Newspaper

Georgia’s introduction of high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes on Interstate 85 at the beginning of the month has already turned into a public relations disaster. During rush hour, motorists found themselves stranded in the general purpose lanes as the adjacent HOT lane — constructed and maintained with their tax dollars — were essentially unused. Drivers balked at paying the stiff $5.40 entrance tax for permission to enter, leaving the existing lane space to go to waste. Governor Nathan Deal (R) intervened swiftly on October 6 to order the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) to lower the cost of using the toll lane.

“Looking at what we’ve learned from our first four work days with the HOT lanes, I’ve asked SRTA to improve utilization of the express lanes,” Deal said in a statement. “In the short term, the toll rate will lower — starting with Thursday afternoon’s commute — but the effective rate will continue to change to regulate speed and volume.”

The HOT lanes idea was hailed from the start as an important advance in the region’s transportation network. Using $110 million in federal gas tax dollars, a system of gantries was set up requiring drivers to install an electronic transponder, called the Peach Pass, if they wished to pay to use a 15-mile stretch of the freeway that previously had been set aside as a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV), free for the use of anyone carrying an extra passenger in his vehicle. The change to the HOT format was hailed as a proven concept.

“The opening of the I-85 Express Lanes will represent a new era in transportation innovation,” SRTA Executive Director Gena L. Evans, said on September 16.

After the project actually opened for business, motorist Howard Rodgers quickly racked up more than 1500 electronic and hardcopy signatures on a petition calling for a halt to the HOT lanes.

“By removing the existing HOV lane for use as a toll lane the state has created daily traffic jams and backlogs causing greater pollution, increased travel times, and an extra tax on the citizens of Gwinnett County and points north during times of economic decline,” the petition states. “The adjustable toll system amounts to a monopoly on the travel lane requiring customer to pay a higher surcharge (price gouging) for the ability to arrive to or from work in a timely manner.”

Deal forced state officials to ask the Federal Highway Administration for permission to allow vehicles with two, as opposed to three, people on board to use the express lanes for free. I-85 is not the only HOT lane to fail. In Washington State, the State Route 167 HOT lanes are on their third year in operation. According to the third-quarter financial results, it cost $173,939 more in toll collection expenses to operate the lanes than was generated in revenue in fiscal 2011.


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  • Mtunofun Mtunofun on Oct 19, 2011

    EZPass: lame Fastrak: booorrring Peach Pass: ADORABLE!!!!!

  • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on Oct 20, 2011

    Call me a communist, but I have NO problem at all with toll roads. Users should pay directly for thier road use. Works out great for a state like Maine where a HUGE percentage of the traffic is from out of state. If you are a local you can get a commuter pass and pay a flat rate for three months between any two exits. I pay ~$30 every three months for unlimited use in the area that covers 95% of my turnpike use. Saves me a small fortune vs. the individual toll, but all those out-of-staters pay, pay, pay. Don't want to pay? Rt1 is free but I hope you have plenty of time to kill. Of course I am in favor of mileage-based road tax too.

    • See 2 previous
    • Geozinger Geozinger on Oct 20, 2011

      @valkraider: "they should move closer to work, or work closer to home..." Easier said than done. When I lived in metro Atlanta, the wave of population moving out into the surrounding suburbs and counties was impressive, I'm sure it remains the same today. One day, I have one of the first houses in a subdivision, (seemingly) the next day the whole subdivision is completed and the requisite shopping mall is being built, too. It's not like you can just pick up and leave the area your home is in, particularly if you own. It's one thing when you're a renter, but it's a different story if you're putting down roots. Or what happened to me. I went from a nice 20 min ride on the MARTA train to get to work to a 1.25 hr commute because the company moved locations. I didn't want to go from Henry County to Gwinnett county every day, but that's where my job was. It was a good paying job, with lots of benefits, too. Really hard to let that go when you have responsibilities beyond yourself. I eventually did leave for an even better job (ask me why I miss the 1990's), and through good luck it was on my side of town. Not everyone has that kind of choice...

  • EBFlex At the summer property putting boats in the water, leveling boat lifts, cleaning the lots for summer, etc. Typical cabin stuff in the most beautiful place on the planet
  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
  • CAMeyer Considering how many voters will be voting for Trump because they remember that gas prices were low in 2020–never mind the pandemic—this seems like a wise move.
  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.