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Is the ‘Tollercoaster’ Atlanta’s next ‘Spaghetti Junction’?

You’ve cursed the Downtown Connector, avoided Spaghetti Junction and frittered away hours on the Perimeter. Soon, you may be sailing along on metro Atlanta’s newest highway landmark: the Tollercoaster.

That’s the nickname coined by a Conyers man for the new Northwest Corridor Express Lanes in Cobb and Cherokee counties. It’s inspired by the way the toll lanes rise and swoop above the regular lanes on stretches of I-75. And if Steven Holmes and his friends have their way, “Tollercoaster” will take its place in the pantheon of catchy nicknames for metro Atlanta highway landmarks.

“I think it will stick,” Holmes told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Why not? It’s easier for a guy in a [traffic] helicopter to say than ‘The Northwest Corridor Express Lanes.’ It’s much easier to say, ‘if you’re in a hurry, take the Tollercoaster.’”

The Tollercoaster – er, the Northwest Corridor – stretches 30 miles along I-75 and I-575. The reversible lanes carry traffic into Atlanta in the morning and out of town in the afternoon. Motorists pay a minimum of 10 cents a mile to use the lanes – the toll rises as traffic gets worse.

They’re part of the state’s growing network of metro Atlanta toll lanes. Eventually, there will be 120 miles of them.

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The Northwest Corridor towers above the regular lanes in some places. That’s because the scarcity of right of way in the corridor made building “up” more viable than building “out.”

It was that feature that caught Holmes’ eye and inspired the Tollercoaster nickname.

Traffic has improved on I-75 and I-575 since the opening of the Northwest Corridor Express Lanes - even in the free lanes. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM (JOHN SPINK / AJC/JOHN SPINK / AJC)

“I’d drive by it every day, watching it being built,” he said. “You’d have a real high section, then it would come down and go back up.”

Holmes, who works for a company that makes road signs, believes he is the first person to call the express lanes the “Tollercoaster.” He said the nickname popped into his head last summer while he was discussing the lanes on a private Facebook page for transportation enthusiasts.

His friends loved it. One shared a Tollercoaster video on social media, set to the tune of the Ohio Players’ song “Love Rollercoaster.” Another edited the Wikipedia entry on the lanes to include the nickname.

The social media buzz caught the attention of Chris Tomlinson, the executive director of the State Road and Tollway Authority, which collects the tolls on the express lanes. He’s glad the lanes have captured the imagination of customers. And he loves the nickname.

“I think it’s really catchy,” he said.

The Northwest Corridor Express Lanes, seen here under construction last year, rise and fall beside the regular lanes on I-75 in Cobb County. A Conyers man has nicknamed the toll lanes the “Tollercoaster,” and hopes the name will stick. PHIL SKINNER/AJC (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry seems less enamored of the name. He said “Northwest Corridor Express Lanes” better reflects the fact that they’re part of a growing network of lanes.

But McMurry acknowledged that “whatever it gets called will be whatever it is.”

Whatever they’re called, the lanes have been a hit with many commuters, including Holmes. He drove them the day after they opened.

“It’s a delight to drive on – very ingeniously engineered, I think,” Holmes said. “With the footprint they had to work with, they did a great job.”

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