GDOT’s approval of I-75 project advances concept of managed toll lanes in region, plan due in 2014

Georgia's managed lane project will extend from near I-285 into northern Cobb and Cherokee counties. Credit: GDOT

Georgia’s managed lane project will extend from near I-285 into northern Cobb and Cherokee counties. Credit: GDOT

By David Pendered

The state transportation board has chosen a team to build an $840 million network of managed toll lanes along I-75 and I-575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties and open it in 2018.

Essentially, the project amounts to building a separate toll road alongside the existing highways. Traffic will flow south during the morning commute and north during the evening. Funding is scheduled from public and private sources.

This new project of managed toll lanes represents the wave of the future in Georgia’s highway program.

Gov. Nathan Deal has endorsed the concept to relieve traffic in metro Atlanta. The approach seeks to secure money to expand highways at a time funding from local, state and federal sources is not keeping up with mobility demands.

The entire region is now being reviewed by the Georgia Department of Transportation to determine the roads that are best suited for managed lanes.

A priority list of future projects will be created. This review process is now in full speed and is to be finished in the first half of 2014, according to Toby Carr, who was chosen by the governor to decide which transportation projects are funded.

“We are working cooperatively and collaboratively to get the best possible plan put together, with our very limited financial resources and our great human resources,” Carr told GRTA’s board during its April meeting.

Kyle Mote, GDOT’s project manager for managed lanes, told GRTA’s board in April the goals of managed lanes are to: “Protect mobility, maximize throughput, and minimize environmental impact.”

The project approved Tuesday has been dubbed the Northwest Corridor. Its concept has been reviewed since 2002 and a number of iterations have been floated – including one that provided truck-only lanes.

In GDOT’s procurement process, the GDOT board actually has authorized GDOT staff to enter into negotiations aimed at securing a final contract with the winning vendor, Northwest Express Roadbuilders. The company is a joint venture of Archer Western Contractors, LLC, of Atlanta, and Hubbard Construction Company, of Winter Park, Fl.  California-based Parsons Transportation Group, Inc., will serve as lead engineering firm from its Atlanta office, according to a GDOT statement.

The current version once was projected to cost nearly $1 billion. An executive summary from NWER says its engineers were able to reduce that cost through methods including the use of:

  • An alternate concrete barrier standard;
  • An alternative bridge deck design;
  • Steel cross frames;
  • Bolted field splices in the, “erection of long, multi-span continuous curved steel girder bridges;”
  • Alternate alignments at I-75 and I-575, Windy Hill Road, and North Marietta.

The plan calls for managed lanes to be built along 30 miles of highway. Access will be limited and controlled. User fees can be paid with a Peach Pass, the payment program used on other highways and overseen by the State Road and Tollway Authority.

Two lanes are to be built from I-75 at Akers Mill Road, located in Cobb just south of I-285, to the junction of I-575, north of Marietta. This segment is to be built along the western side of the highway.

At the northern junction, the managed lanes project will fork and reduce to one lane in each direction. One segment will continue in the median of I-75 and continue to Hickory Grove Road. The other will continue in the median of I-575 to Sixes Road.

Portions of the project near Marietta will be elevated through a combination of bridges and walled structures. Barriers will separate the segments built on the ground from the existing highways.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

19 replies
  1. moliere says:

    Well T-SPLOST opponents, here is your Plan B. Toll roads along existing highways that people are going to avoid like the plaque. Hope you are happy!Report

    Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      moliere Tolled lanes are not a “Plan B”, they’re very much a “Plan A” as the State of Georgia has been working on plans for a regionwide network of tolled lanes since about around the year 2000, long before plans for the flawed and failed T-SPLOST came into fruition in the late 2000’s. 
      Like Mr. Pendered noted in the article, official plans to add toll lanes to Interstates 75 and 575 outside of I-285 in Cobb and Cherokee counties has been around in one form or another since at least 2002.
      Many of the plans that the state has floated and written in the past have included not just adding toll lanes to area highways, but also converting toll lanes out of existing HOV and general purpose lanes on area highways due to a lack of available right-of-way on which to further expand roads and because of a growing public aversion to additional large-scale roadway expansions that the public considers to be excessive.
      The state has plans to convert many stretches of existing HOV and general purpose lane to toll lanes, including the conversion of all remaining stretches of existing HOV lanes inside of I-285 to toll lanes.
      Here is a link to the “Atlanta Regional Managed Lane System Plan” which was completed in 2009, nearly a year before the Georgia Legislature officially commissioned and passed into law the statewide series of regional T-SPLOST referendums during the 2010 Legislative session: http://www.dot.ga.gov/Projects/studies/managedlanes/Documents/FINALREPORT.pdfReport

      Reply
      • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

        moliere Here is also the link to the original proposal for toll lanes on Interstates 75 and 575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties, the Northwest I-75/I-575 HOV/BRT proposal that was under consideration by the State of Georgia circa 2002-2007: http://www.nwhovbrt.com/
        The state backed away from this proposal starting in about 2005 after widespread objections from the public over the current 10-15 lane I-75 roadway being expanded to as many as 18-25 lanes between I-285 and I-575.
        The state also backed away from this proposal because of objections from the governments of Cobb County and the City of Marietta over so much valuable high-tax revenue commercial and industrial property being condemned for the road project.
        It is because of those widespread objections to the previous proposal for a large-scale roadway expansion (as well as the state’s increasing severe lack of road construction funding by way of rapidly-shrinking fuel tax revenues) that the current project only calls for 2 reversible lanes to be added mostly only to the westside of the existing right-of-way (with only minimal right-of-way acquisitions).Report

        Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      moliere {{{“Toll roads along existing highways that people are going to avoid like the plaque.”}}}
      …That’s actually somewhat kind of the whole idea as the tolls will be hiked up during peak hours (periods of the heaviest traffic) to keep excess traffic out of the lanes so that the lanes always maintain an average speed of 45 m.p.h.Report

      Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      @Kt {{{“How much public money and how much private?”}}}
      …From what I understand, approximately $770 million of the cost of the lanes will be from public sources in the form of a $270 million TIFIA loan (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan) from the federal government and up to $500 million in state fuel tax revenues, the rest of the cost of the lanes will be from private sources.Report

      Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      @Kt {{{“How much transit could have been built with $840m?”}}}
      …Not necessarily all that much at this juncture in an I-75/I-575 Northwest Corridor that remains somewhat highly-averse to transit alternatives despite very-severe rush hour congestion that continues to worsen as the area continues to experience explosive population growth.
      This is due to rapidly-shrinking but very highly-vocal anti-transit elements that continue to remain politically-dominant in Cobb and Cherokee counties.
      The good news is that the construction of the toll lanes will enable express commuter bus service to improve and likely expand by allowing buses to run in lanes that are separate from the untolled general purpose lanes where congestion is the heaviest.
      Improving and expanding bus service will also allow for an increase in transit ridership which will allow the stage to be set for the eventual implementation of passenger rail transit service one day in the future in the currently transit-averse I-75/I-575 Northwest Corridor.Report

      Reply
  2. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Reversible toll lanes on Interstates 75 and 575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties are better than nothing, I guess.
    …Which is almost exactly how many truly meaningful transportation improvements that area has received in the last 2 decades during a time of explosive growth in population, development and traffic volumes: NOTHING.Report

    Reply
  3. disappointment says:

    Wow, i didn’t believe till now. But Cobb county sucks. Toll lanes??? Seriously, at 850 million!!! You realize its going to look just like 85 right now. And not to mention the miss match bus system you already have up that doesn’t run on Sunday.Report

    Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      @disappointment {{{“Wow, I didn’t believe till now. But Cobb county sucks. Toll lanes??? Seriously, at 850 million!!!”}}}
      …$850 million sounds like a lot, but the cost of the project has actually dropped from a price of $1.2 billion last year and from a price of around $2-4 billion if the project had been built in its original form that would have added 8-10 lanes to I-75 between the I-285 NW Cobb Cloverleaf and the I-575 split.
      {{{“You realize its going to look just like 85 right now.”}}}
      …Not necessarily as the I-75/I-575 HOT lanes are being ADDED to the roadway in the form of a 2-lane reversible roadway that runs toward I-285 during morning rush hour and runs away from I-285 during afternoon and evening rush hour (as opposed to the I-85 HOT lanes which were converted out of existing HOV-2 lanes).Report

      Reply
  4. SICreation says:

    @The Last Democrat in Georgia …So if we can’t get rail service, then it would be helpful if the CCT would consider extending Express Bus STOPS in the ever going business district of Cumberland.  The only semi-express that stops there is the 10A/B which runs the regular street routes.Report

    Reply
  5. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    SICreation  High-capacity passenger rail transit service has actually been discussed as an eventual possibility on both the US 41 Cobb Parkway and the state-owned CSX/Western & Atlantic Railroad right-of-ways.
    But for passenger rail service to eventually be permitted to operate within the county by Cobb’s traditionally transit-averse electorate, MARTA has to continue to work to rehab its traditionally exceptionally poor public image with the Outside-the-Perimeter suburban and exurban voters that thoroughly dominate the political climate of Metro Atlanta and North Georgia.
    MARTA has to prove that it can be competently managed and efficiently operated at the absolute highest levels with no budget deficits over a sustained period of time before a highly conservative electorate in Cobb County will even give rail transit service the time of day.
    Funding also has to be found from sources other than sales taxes that require the approval of said politically dominant transit-averse voters in a voter referendum for high-capacity passenger rail transit service to be expanded into Cobb County where the electorate continues to be highly skeptical of the effectiveness and/or need of mass transit.Report

    Reply
  6. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    SICreation  Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee wants the county to hold a controversial voter referendum during the 2016 Presidential Election to attempt to fund the implementation of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service between Midtown Atlanta and the Kennesaw State University/Town Center Mall area by way of I-75 and US 41 Cobb Parkway.
    Right now, that potential controversial voter referendum in 2016 to fund BRT service along US 41 seems to be the only chance to potentially improve transit service of any kind in the Cumberland area because a voter referendum seems to be the only tool that would be available to fund such an increase in transit service. 
    Otherwise, the only other chance to potentially improve transit service in the Cumberland area (outside of future shuttles to and from games at the new Braves stadium) may be in the form of a potential state takeover and overhaul of MARTA so that rail transit lines can be expanded into the politically and logistically crucial Northern suburbs.Report

    Reply
  7. writes_of_weigh says:

    These toll lane “pipe dreams” have been meandering around places like Texas, Ohio and Florida for years. There was even a scandal in Florida(and Georgia) involving a credential carrying FLA DOT inspector, Robert(?) Lemme, who had alleged that there was (potential for) fraud in the toll accountability process(something not unknown to Georgia motorists, (GA 400 anyone?) involving the Sunshine State Parkway, and then GOV. Jeb Bush, a fraud which supposedly went “all the way to the top”(keeping in mind that brother W. was President of the United States at the time). Mr. Lemme met an unfortunate “end” in a Lowndes County Georgia motel room(suicide?), and later the GBI certifying physician(on a short stint at the Moultrie, GA GBI crime lab, up from Tallahassee and suddenly back to Tallahassee) ruled (as there was no Coroner’s report((not required in a “suicide”)) ruled sure enough that  Florida inspector Lemme, had met his demise at his own hand. Curiously, there were allegations of camera “failure” which the Valdosta, Georgia police had used to “document” the crime” scene, not unlike the recent sort of failures involving a Lowndes County High School teen named Johnson, whose ultimate end seemingly also encountered “video” failure, but which surely enough “cleared” the teenaged wrestler sons of a local(Valdosta) FBI agent? Hmmmm….wonder if Jeb still plans to run for president? I’ll bet he’s got a funding plan for transportation infrastructure, truth or dare?  – See more at: http://saportareport.com/blog/2013/07/gdots-approval-of-i-75-project-advances-concept-of-managed-toll-lanes-in-region/comment-page-1/#comment-119641Report

    Reply

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