The goal of the new toll lanes was simple: Keep the metro area's notorious traffic flowing and open to anyone -- for a price. The amount of the toll varies, depending on how congested the road is at any given time.
Just a few days into the effort, traffic noticeably worsened in the regular lanes because so few people used the HOT lanes. That angered commuters, who railed about the lanes' cost and complexity.
State officials had predicted as much, as commuters learned the new system.
But after less than a week, Deal slashed the toll rate by more than 40 percent and pledged to ask the federal government for a waiver to let Georgia provide a free ride to two-person car pools.
In an Oct. 25 letter denying the request for the waiver, the Federal Highway Administration's Jeffrey A. Lindley said it was too early to tell if the three-person rule wasn't working. He said the state needed to look at ways to improve usage beyond just a vehicle's occupancy.
A spokeswoman for the State Road and Tollway Authority said Tuesday those discussions are under way. They include expanding the number of access points at which drivers can enter the HOT lanes. Any outcome is expected to take months, which means more heartburn for drivers.
"That's a patchwork to try to make a bad decision a little better," said metro commuter Chris Haley, who with other critics formed the Stolen Lanes coalition to oppose HOT lanes in Georgia. "These HOT lanes are not working."