By David Pendered
Georgia’s federal funding request for the express lanes along Ga. 400 could have been viewed as a long shot. It was one of 234 grant applications submitted, including four others from Georgia. In the end, it was among 20 selected for the first round of major funding under President Trump’s new infrastructure initiative.
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced plans to provide $184.1 million to help pay for the planned $1.8 billion express lane project. Before the grants can be finalized, Congress is to approve the nearly $1.5 billion project list the DOT announced on June 8.
The $184.1 million is $70 million short of the state’s request of $284.1 million for the project.
Georgia Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry focused on the positive in remarks released in a statement:
- “The SR 400 Express Lanes project will play a critical role in helping improve mobility in a corridor that is vital to connecting people, jobs, and freight. We are grateful to the Department of Transportation for investing in Georgia’s transportation network.”
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao visited Atlanta on June 29 to announce the proposed grant for Ga. 400. Beside her was U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Lawrenceville), who is viewed as being in his first competitive campaign since winning office in 2010. Chao’s trip to Atlanta to announce the proposed grant is the only one reported in a statement issued by the department.
The Ga. 400 express lane project prevailed over four competing funding requests for projects in Georgia. Three are in metro Atlanta and one is near Savannah:
- Cobb County requested $12 million to help with the second phase of the ramp project at Akers Mill Road, which is to improve access to and from the Cumberland business district;
- Fulton County requested $10.7 million to help pay for the re-configuration of the Cascade Road at I-285 diverging diamond interchange;
- Georgia requested $185.2 million to help with the I-16 corridor improvements, which includes adding one lane in each direction between I-95 and I-516, and retooling the interchange at I-16 and I-95.
- Gwinnett County requested $105.5 million to help fund the second phase of the extension of Sugarloaf Parkway.
The Ga. 400 project complies with several aspects of the infrastructure funding program Trump’s administration released last year.
One new criteria calls for “innovative approaches that make each federal dollar go further and encourage more parties to put skin in the game.” The express lane project will dovetail into the public-private partnership that is financing the reconfiguration of the interchange at Ga. 400 and I-285. Other sources include $10 million from the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts, and $1 million each from Sandy Springs and the PATH Foundation for bicycle and pedestrian improvements.
Another criteria favors projects that “reduce barriers separating workers from employment centers and ones that connect peripheral regions to urban centers or job opportunities.” The express lane project is expected to reduce delays by 19,000 hours a day along the Ga. 400 corridor by 2030, according to projections by the Georgia Department of Transportation.
According to the USDOT’s statement, the Ga. 400 express lanes project will provide 17 miles of priced two-lane, bidirectional managed lanes along SR 400 from I-285 to McGinnis Ferry Road in Fulton County, and one managed lane in each direction from McGinnis Ferry Road north to McFarland Parkway in Forsyth County.
The express lanes are to connect with the retooled intersection at I-285 and Ga. 400 with 8 miles of collector-distributor lanes. Plans call for nine access points for the express lanes, including three full interchanges, and six locations with slip lanes.