FULTON COUNTY, Ga. - Express Lanes on I-75 in Cobb County are set to open later this summer, meanwhile the Georgia DOT is announcing plans for the next big Express Lane project.
The newest set of Express Lanes will be built along GA-400, through Fulton County. It's a project meant to help congestion and build a unique partnership for transit.
Drivers along GA-400 have been frustrated lately, and sounding off. Their ride has consistently been the worst metro area ride lately, and things may have to get a little worse, before they can get better.
A SKYFOX 5 chopper ride over GA-400 during the morning rush hour shows a lot of cars. "You get used to the traffic, but it's not something you enjoy. You spend most of your life in traffic," says commuter Tom Holmberg.
And as crews currently work to transform the I-285 and GA-400 interchange, traffic has been even heavier than normal for this corridor. "Anyone who lives up GA-400 knows, this is a hassle day in and day out. It's a hassle during morning rush hour, it's a hassle during PM rush hour and sometimes it's a hassle in between," says DOT Spokesperson Natalie Dale.
The state is hoping to bring relief in the form of another construction project, $1.8-billion dollars in Express Lanes. They will add 17 miles of new lanes stretching into Forsyth County.
"From Spalding Dr. to McGinnis Ferry Rd. it's two lanes northbound and two lanes southbound, and these are additional lanes. We're not taking lanes, we will be widening GA-400 to build these lanes," adds Dale.
The lanes will operate just like the Express Lanes already in the works. You will have the option to pay to ride in them for a faster commute. "Most of us are on a budget, and can't really swing added income but then there's others in Atlanta that aren't so it depends on who it's really going to benefit," Tom says.
The governor also announced the state will use $100-million in funds from the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority, nicknamed "The ATL" to add Bus Rapid Transit to the Express Lanes. It's a unique partnership between a state, county and MARTA. "The first step really in marrying a road project and a transit project that we've seen in the metro Atlanta area," explains Dale.
There will be four dedicated interchanges along the route for these new high capacity, high speed buses.
While drivers may be looking for a quick fix, they'll have to pack the patience a little longer. The Express Lanes aren't estimated to open until 2024.
"It's that sort of, pardon our progress that there's going to be some bumps and some bruises until we get some of this relief," Dale adds.
"If they can progress quickly, I think most people will be accepting of it," Tom adds.
The federal government has promised $184-million dollars in grant money for this project. The state will start buying right of way later this year.
These GA-400 Express Lanes will tie into Express Lanes that are eventually coming to the top half of I-285, between I-20 on the east side and I-20 on the west side. Eventually there will be a network of connected Express Lanes for drivers.
DOT leaders compared the project benefits to doing nothing, since traffic is estimated to get even worse and by 2030 they say drivers will be saving 20 to 25 minutes on their ride with this Express Lane road work.