‘Flex lanes’ on Ga. 400 to close permanently on Friday

Motorists using the flex lanes on Ga. 400 in 2020. (AJC FILE PHOTO)

Credit: John Spink

Credit: John Spink

Motorists using the flex lanes on Ga. 400 in 2020. (AJC FILE PHOTO)

Get ready to drive on the shoulder of Ga. 400 at rush hour for the last time.

The Georgia Department of Transportation will close the rush-hour “flex lanes” on Ga. 400 permanently on Friday. The northbound and southbound lanes have allowed motorists to use the shoulder of the highway between the Pitts Road overpass and Holcomb Bridge Road as an extra lane during rush hour.

But GDOT will close the lanes at 9 p.m. Friday as it prepares to replace three bridges along Ga. 400. Those bridges are a prelude to construction of two new toll lanes in each direction along 16 miles of the highway.

GDOT has allowed motorists to drive on the shoulder of Ga. 400 since 2012. But GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale said that was never intended to be a permanent solution to traffic congestion on one of the region’s busiest highways.

“That became the best Band-Aid we could use at the moment,” Dale said. “They were always intended to be a temporary solution.”

Crews will remove the current flex-lane signs and striping. The shoulders will look like any other highway shoulders.

In addition to closing the flex lanes, GDOT will close the left lane on Ga 400 in both directions from 7 p.m. Friday to 7 p.m. Sunday between mile markers 13 and 15. The speed limit will be reduced to 55 mph from the Northridge Road exit to the Kimball Bridge Road exit.

The changes will reduce capacity on the highway for now. GDOT says that’s necessary to build the new lanes, a new bus rapid transit line and a multiuse path on the new bridges.

Work on the three bridges is expected to be completed in 2025. GDOT has not announced a construction timetable for the new toll lanes, but it plans to select a firm to build and operate the lanes later this year.