Spinning our Wheels

Spinning our Wheels is a commuting blog about the challenges of getting around Atlanta by car, bus, MARTA, bicycles and on foot written by transportation reporter David Wickert

'Tollercoaster' express lanes make an impact on metro Atlanta traffic

It’s only been two months since the opening of the Northwest Corridor Express Lanes in Cobb and Cherokee counties. But already evidence suggests they’re having a big impact on traffic. 

The lanes stretch 30 miles along I-75 and I-575 northwest of Atlanta. They’re reversible, carrying traffic into Atlanta in the morning and out of town in the afternoon. Motorists pay a minimum of 10 cents a mile to use them for most of the day, though the toll rises as traffic congestion gets worse. 

They’ve proven to be a hit with many commuters, even some who were previously skeptical. Some reported saving an hour or more each way on their commute. 

The latest report came from state officials who spoke at the Georgia Transportation Summit last Friday in Athens. 

Chris Tomlinson, executive director of the State Road and Tollway Authority, told several hundred engineers, politicians and others at the summit that motorists took more than one million trips on the new lanes in their first month of operations. 

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Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry said that, with many people using the express lanes, traffic in the regular lanes was moving 10 to 15 mph faster at rush hour. And the peak congestion period in the corridor had been reduced by nearly an hour. 

McMurry called the lanes “transformative.” And Tomlinson said they’re “making a difference in the daily lives, the daily commutes of Georgians.” 

Tomlinson said the impact will grow in coming years as the state adds new express lanes across the region. Earlier this month the state opened a 10-mile extension of the I-85 express lanes in Gwinnett County. 

Next spring GDOT plans to advertise for a contractor to build more express lanes on Ga. 400 in Fulton and Forsyth counties. Eventually, it will build such lanes along the top half of the Perimeter. 

The state is more than halfway to its goal of building 120 miles of express lanes across the region. 

Tomlinson offered one more tidbit about the Northwest Corridor lanes – his favorite nickname. He said some customers have taken to calling them the “Tollercoaster” – a reference to the way they rise and dip beside the regular lanes on stretches of I-75. 

Tomlinson called it “the best nickname ever.”

About the Author

David Wickert writes about transportation issues for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He previously worked for newspapers in Washington state, Illinois, Virginia and Tennessee.

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