Red gates indicated the the I-75 reversible express lanes are closed to northbound travelers. (Staff Photo: Asia Ashley)
McDONOUGH — It’s been one year since Georgia opened its first reversible toll lanes through Henry County on Jan. 28, 2017.
“One year in, we are very pleased with the performance of the lanes,” said Chris Tomlinson, executive director of State Roadway and Toll Authority. “The original vision for this project was to provide a new capacity to help address an ongoing congestion bottleneck that occurs on the southside of Atlanta at I-75 and I-675. This entire project was built to bypass that congestion during weekday commutes and even on the weekends. It was to provide a bypass to the congestion, and we feel it’s worked as intended.”
State Roadway and Toll Authority Public Affairs Manager Jodi Scott said an estimated average of 9,600 daily trips have been driven in the I-75 South Metro Express Lanes during the week and that number has been steadily increasing. The average weekday trips more than doubled between February and December, excluding holidays, she said, stating that total toll lane trips exceeded 2 million by the end of December.
Fridays appear to be the busiest day in the toll lanes, when there are 20 percent more trips on average than on Mondays.
“Traveling to and from Atlanta, I look forward to using these lanes. It’s so much faster than sitting in the bottleneck congestion between exits 218 and 228,” Heather McCabe said.
The reversible lanes are approximately 12 miles, extending from Ga. Highway 155 in McDonough to Ga. Highway 138 in Stockbridge. The lanes are barrier-separated from the general purpose lanes and allow vehicles to travel north toward Atlanta during the morning commute and south in the afternoon.
While some have found the toll lanes useful, double the amount of Facebook commenters said the lanes have not helped alleviate traffic on the interstate. The lanes would have been better used for other purposes, such as an extra lane for traffic on each side of the interstate, HOV or truck-only lanes, some users said.
“I do not utilize the new reversible toll lanes for the simple fact that we already pay taxes and fees into the gasoline prices to help with road infrastructures,” John Thomas posted. “We shouldn’t have to pay to travel on a specific interstate or road. I have seen it countless times with an accident on either the north or south side and the lanes are flowing in the wrong direction to help ease congestion.
During the first few weeks of operation, the toll lanes were free to drivers with a Peach Pass. Since then, toll prices have ranged from 50 cents per trip to 90 cents per mile, depending on congestion. The average trip cost, according to SRTA data, has been about 50 cents and has been determined based on traffic in the general lanes. From Feb. 17 to Dec. 17, nearly $995,000 was generated through the toll lanes, with just under $20,000 of it generated through toll violations.
Revenue from the tolls will be used to pay off the bonds for the project and to maintain the lanes, according to state transportation representatives.
Travel speed in the lanes averages about 76.6 mph, about 13 mph more during the peak weekday morning drive time in general lanes, according to information provided from SRTA. In the afternoon peak hours, speed averages 74.2 mph compared to 50.4 mph in the general purpose lanes.