Congestion pricing coming to I-85 in Atlanta

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The federal government is investing $110 million to support a Georgia state plan to reduce traffic congestion in Metropolitan Atlanta, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced Tuesday, Nov. 25. The plan intends to allow more commuters to take advantage of Interstate 85’s HOV lanes northeast of the city, and also allow for the establishment of new high-speed commuter bus service into downtown.

According to the Texas Transportation Institute’s 2007 Urban Mobility Report, the Atlanta metro area is tied for the second-highest level of traffic congestion as measured in terms of hours of delay per rush hour driver. “This ambitious plan will tame traffic, pump new money into the region’s transit services and redefine the way people use I-85,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters says. “The goal is simple and make commutes reliable, not ridiculous.”

The first phase of the project will institute a network consisting of variably-priced high-occupancy toll lanes on I-85, stretching from I-285 to Old Peachtree Road by January 2011. Future phases of Atlanta’s congestion plan will include a 49-mile network of additional HOV-to-HOT lane conversions along I-85, I-75 and I-20. Similar HOT lane projects have been implemented in Minneapolis and Southern California, and these areas already have seen a reduction in the amount of congestion during peak travel times, according to DOT.

Also included in the grant is $30 million for transit service enhancement that will operate on the newly converted expressways. The funding will go toward the purchase of new buses and the construction and expansion of park-and-ride facilities.

Atlanta is the most recent city to receive federal funding from DOT for its efforts to establish a more permanent federal program focused on innovative solutions to improve mobility and fight increasing congestion in metropolitan areas; more details can be found at www.fightgridlocknow.gov. “The money we are providing today will make commuting faster, transit better and small businesses more competitive,” Peters says. “Together, we’ll make traffic in Atlanta go with the wind.”