Express toll lanes to open this month
By Monroe Roark
The moment thousands of commuters have been waiting for is right around the corner.
Depending upon who you talk to, it will either be the answer to a longstanding problem or will simply make the problem worse.
The long-awaited express toll lanes on I-75 through Clayton and Henry counties are set to open Jan. 28. The unveiling comes after several years of planning and the pain of construction delays along the route, as well as other issues such as the closing of Mt. Carmel Road for nearly a year because of a bridge replacement.
Officials with the Georgia Department of Transportation say that express toll lanes are being used successfully in other parts of the United States and will be a big help here. A large number of local residents are not so sure.
If you are planning to use the lanes yourself, there are a few things you need to know.
First of all, you must have a Peach Pass because there will be no toll booths. You can open an account at www.peachpass.com and a sticker for your vehicle will be mailed in 7-10 days. Typically your account is funded by a credit or debit card and replenished automatically when necessary, but there are variations that can be managed with cash and refilled at local vendors such as all local CVS stores. Check the website for complete information. Bonus: the Peach Pass can also be used in Florida and North Carolina.
The express toll lanes on I-75 extend from the Hwy. 138 interchange in Stockbridge (Exit 228) to Hwy. 155 in McDonough (Exit 216). The northern half contains two lanes and the southern half has one lane.
These lanes are reversible, meaning they will be used solely by northbound motorists in the morning and southbound drivers in the afternoon. In addition to the access points and the northern and southern ends of the lanes, there is a dedicated ramp at Jonesboro Road, directly across from Foster Drive, and slip ramps between Mt. Carmel Road and Hwy. 20-81 for northbound drivers already on I-75 to utilize the lanes. Those traveling north either merge into regular traffic in Stockbridge or take the ramp onto I-675.
Information about the project is available at the DOT’s website, www.dot.ga.gov. A special website had been maintained previously for this project but it has been taken down.
Some longtime Henry County residents who have been navigating the county’s heavy traffic for years are skeptical, to say the least. Here are few recent “Hey Henry” comments in that regard:
“Hey Henry, the new Jodeco Atlanta South project is going to make traffic in the area a bigger nightmare than it already is. The new Peach lane is going to be a disaster also, and is just a money maker. It will do nothing to improve the traffic in Henry County.“
“Hey Henry, on this toll road here in Henry County: I think if you live in Henry County, we should be given a free pass. If the State wants to gouge out-of-staters, so be it. Me? I’m going back roads and encourage all travelers to do the same. Let’s make this boondoggle go belly up.”
“Hey Henry, the I-75 ‘South Metro Lanes’ are supposed to open January 28, 2017. Expect disaster. What prevents drivers from getting on them going the wrong way, and then being unable to get off to avoid an accident? The lanes are incredibly hard to see at night. The planning reduced the “free” lanes for pay lanes and huge walls (which take up lanes). If it weren't all about money and truly about relieving traffic congestion, they would have just added more lanes going both directions. Hopefully, it’s a big failure and they’ll get it right in the future.”