More metro Atlanta toll lanes to open Saturday

A 10-mile extension of the I-85 express lanes in Gwinnett County will open to motorists Saturday.

One new toll lane in each direction will stretch from the end of the existing express lanes at Old Peachtree Road near Suwanee up to Hamilton Mill Road. The extension means I-85 will have 25 miles of toll lanes to help manage traffic congestion on one of metro Atlanta’s busiest highways.

The toll lanes are a big part of the state's plan to address some of the world's worst traffic. The Georgia Department of Transportation plans a 120-mile network of toll lanes across metro Atlanta, with future lanes coming to Ga. 400 in Fulton and Forsyth counties and to the top half of the Perimeter.

With the opening of the I-85 extension and the recent opening of the Northwest Corridor Express Lanes, the network will have 67 miles of toll lanes, including 30 miles of lanes on I-75 and I-575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties and 12 miles of lanes on I-75 in Clayton and Henry counties.

To use the lanes, motorists must have a Peach Pass— a sticker that attaches to your car and records tolls as motorists pass checkpoints. The toll varies along with traffic congestion: the worse the traffic, the higher the toll. The idea is to raise the price to discourage some people from using the lanes, ensuring that traffic moves along at 45 mph or more.

That's been a challenge on the I-85 lanes, which are often congested at rush hour. That's why the State Road and Tollway Authority recently eliminated the maximum toll of $13.95 on the lanes. Since then, the price for the longest trip has reached as high as $15.95.

For most of the day, the minimum toll on all express lanes is 10 cents a mile (there’s a flat 50-cent-per-trip toll overnight).

About 30,000 people use the existing I-85 lanes each weekday.