The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) held public meetings to discuss its plans to build new toll lanes along Interstate 285 to ease traffic congestion and link the region’s growing network of toll lanes around the Perimeter between Acworth and Buford, where GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale says, “A quarter of a million people use this roadway,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
GDOT plans to build two toll lanes in each direction between Paces Ferry Road in Cobb County and Henderson Road in DeKalb County, and also build new toll lanes along Ga. 400 from I-285 to the North Springs MARTA station. GDOT says it will use fluctuating tolls to keep traffic moving in the new “express” lanes.
The toll lanes on the top end of the Perimeter would link a 120-mile network of toll lanes together. Toll lanes have already been added to I-75 in Clayton and Henry counties, I-75 and I-575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties, as well as I-85 in Gwinnett County. Still more toll lanes will be built on the east and west sides of the Perimeter and on Ga. 400, and could soon be added to I-20 east and west of Atlanta and on I-75 to the south.
The projects were made possible, in part, by a gas-tax hike approved by the General Assembly in 2015. Construction of the top-end Perimeter lanes are expected to begin in 2023 and end in 2028. Meanwhile, GDOT has to draft specific plans, conduct environmental studies, and get public feedback to qualify for federal funding.
Dunwoody City Council member Lynn Deutsch worries that the proposed toll lanes will negatively impact surrounding neighborhoods, since GDOT needs to acquire or obtain easements for approximately 300 parcels to make way for the new lanes. GDOT officials will listen to this and other comments as it begins to move the project forward.
Official notice that GDOT intends to proceed with the project will be issued In September, and then it will start the environmental review process and draft preliminary plans — including details on which properties they will acquire. Those plans will be rolled out in 2020 and more public comment will be solicited before GDOT drafts its final plans.
“We want (people) to come to these meetings,” Dale told the news agency, adding that the agency will do what it can to address public concerns. “We want to hear from them. In the end, as we design this project, our goal is to mitigate those concerns, where possible.”