Toll lanes on Northwest Corridor: Commuter says, ‘I hope everyone wants to pay to get up there’

By David Pendered

Debbie Roberts has one wish for the new express lanes being built in Cobb and Cherokee counties: “I hope everybody wants to pay to get up there, and I’ll have the highway to myself.”

Georgia is building a bridge almost 6,000 feet long, near Marietta, to create a toll way system that's intended to reduce traffic congestion along Atlanta's Northwest Corridor. Credit: GDOT

Georgia is building a bridge almost 6,000 feet long, over the Canton Road Connector, near Marietta, to create a toll way system that’s intended to reduce traffic congestion along Atlanta’s Northwest Corridor. Credit: GDOT

For the past 20 years, Roberts has been witness to the increasing number of vehicles on her commute from home in Cartersville to work in Marietta. Her travel time can reach 90 minutes for the 33-mile trip. There’s no viable alternate route, she said.

“Because when there’s a wreck on 75 and you go to 41, it’s just as backed up,” Roberts said. “And, you have traffic lights all the way.”

Express toll lanes are Georgia’s option to ease traffic congestion in the busy Northwest Corridor. The project, underway along almost 30 miles of I-75 and I-575, is just the beginning of the expanded use of managed lanes that’s planned for metro Atlanta.

More than 150 miles of managed lanes are planned for metro Atlanta, according to the long-range transportation plan approved by the Atlanta Regional Commission. The Georgia Department of Transportation also is building express lanes along I-75 in Henry County.

The Northwest Corridor project is soon to face a test far beyond its original scope. It’s to open in 2018, a year after the Atlanta Braves are to play their first game in Cobb County.

Debbie Roberts

Debbie Roberts

The new express lanes are expected to help with the flow of traffic traveling past the new baseball stadium and mixed use development the Braves are building. The express lanes won’t provide easy access to the stadium area. However, the express lanes are expected to help traffic that intends to pass through the area by enabling vehicles to keep moving, while other roads serve fans heading to the stadium.

The Braves have announced that SunTrust Park also is to anchor a fairly large mixed use development that’s to include a 250-room hotel; 600 “upscale” residences; 400,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space; and at least 100,000 square feet of office space to be filled by Comcast.

The Braves’ website says this development will:

  • “Redefine the traditional model of a, ‘live, work, play’ development as a, ‘play, work, stay’ destination. … It will be a first of its kind: a brand new place to be that will simultaneously create a major sports venue and surrounding community, which will fit seamlessly together from the first pitch.”

Prices have yet to be established to travel in the managed lanes of the Northwest Corridor, said John Hancock, project manager for the Georgia Department of Transportation. Prices will be determined by the State Road and Tollway Authority, which is chaired by Gov. Nathan Deal.

“SRTA has set a bookend for the toll that will depend on congestion,” Hancock said. “It will be a minimum of 50 cents a trip to 90 cents a mile.”

Northwest Corridor, I-285 at I-75. April 2015

Several bridges are being added to the interchange at I-75 and I-285 to create a system of toll lanes along Atlanta’s Northwest Corridor. Credit: GDOT

Hancock emphasized that the Northwest Corridor will operate differently from the express lanes on I-85. Price points will be different, and drivers on the Northwest Corridor express lanes will be able to get in and out of the lanes only at designated areas. This stems from the Northwest Corridor being an entirely new roadway, as opposed to the conversion of existing travel lanes, as was the case at I-85.

Construction has been underway for six months and remains on schedule. So far, no unexpected obstacles have arisen to throw the project behind schedule.

“We’re about 23, 24 percent complete,” Hancock said. “As far as time and money, we are on schedule. We’re moving right along and everything is coming together.”

The component that Hancock describes as the biggest achievement is close to Roberts’ office, where she works as a licensed dispensing optician.

Northwest Corridor, Rendering, I-285:I-75 copy

This rendering shows the bridges that are to be built above the interchange at I-285 and I-75 as part of the Northwest Corridor express lane project. Credit: GDOT

The state is building a bridge that’s almost 6,000 feet long. It’s to lift the toll way above a diamond interchange at the Canton Road Connector and two sets of railroad tracks – the Georgia Northeastern Railroad’s main tracks, and a spur that services the nearby industrial parks.

“We have jumped on that and it’s amazing to see the progress,” Hancock said. “Eight spans of bridge have been poured. That bridge in itself is amazing. You can kind of see everything on this bridge, and it’s been amazing.”

Hancock said he’s been surprised by just one aspect of the project.

“I’ve been on this project for a little over eight years,” Hancock said. “I’m surprised to see construction happening.”

 

 

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.

5 replies
  1. northwest GA commuter says:

    As someone who lives up 575, this lane will not help my commute unless the people who live in Townlake agree to pay to use it as it is my understanding that there will not be any exits on 575 until you arrive at Townlake.  Will the Express buses be permitted to take the new lane?Report

    Reply
  2. GDOT says:

    northwest GA commuter Thank you so much for inquiring about
    the I-75 south express lanes. Express buses and registered vanpools will
    ride for free on I-75 Express Lanes.  And that is just one of the benefits
    of using the Express lanes.  Users of the lanes will see a reduced travel
    time up to 12 minutes in the express lanes and there will be some benefits in
    the general purpose lanes also.  In addition, we anticipate increased
    economic opportunity with employment numbers in the corridor increasing by more
    than 5,500 within the 15 to 30 minute travel range and to more than 49,000
    within a 45 to 60 minute travel time range.Report

    Reply
  3. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    GDOT northwest GA commuter  {{{“Thank you so much for inquiring about the I-75 south express lanes.”}}}

    northwest GA commuter did NOT comment and inquire about the I-75 South Express lanes through Henry County, northwest GA commuter commented and inquired about the I-75/I-575 Northwest Corridor express lanes through Cobb and Cherokee counties.Report

    Reply
  4. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    northwest GA commuter  From the plans for the I-575 express toll lanes available on line, it appears that motorists traveling in the toll lanes along I-575 northbound will be able to exit out of the toll lanes via slip ramps into the existing I-575 general purpose lanes ahead of the Chastain Road and GA Highway 92 exits.

    Traveling northbound on I-575, the I-575 toll lanes will end just before the Sixes Road exit.Report

    Reply
  5. SDekalbJ says:

    One long mess. How do you plan to clear it WHEN, not if, accidents happen? One long slippery mess when bad weather, ice hits.
    Maybe Cobb County can help get folks off with their BRT buses.Report

    Reply

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