The south metro express lanes on Interstate 75 are set to open at the end of January. Courtesy of GDOT

Gridlock Guy: South metro express lanes online soon

With the south metro express lanes set to open at the end of January, the State Roadway and Toll Authority announced the pricing schedule of the new lanes last week. The new dedicated express lanes will be priced very similarly to the current Interstate 85 express lanes in Gwinnett and DeKalb counties.

Motorists will be charged between 10 and 90 cents per mile along the 12-mile long stretch of lanes on Interstate 75 between State Route 155 and State Route 138. Just like the existing express lanes on I-85 the price will go up and down based on traffic flow and demand. The minimum price for a trip will be 50 cents. If my arithmetic is correct, the max rate for a trip for the entire 12-mile stretch will be $10.80 while the cheapest the 12-mile trip will cost you is $1.20.

There is a big difference, functionally, between the south metro express lanes and the current lanes on I-85. The new lanes on the south side are true express lanes. They will be walled off from the existing travel lanes. The current express lanes on I-85 are not separated from the regular travel lanes, allowing drivers to go in and out of the lanes when they want, even if they aren’t legally allowed to do so.

With the south side express lanes, drivers are only allowed to enter and exit at certain points. Access is allowed at Highway 138, I-675, Jonesboro Road. Highway 20/81 and Highway 155. Because of the concrete barrier separating the express lane from the regular lanes, these will be the only places you can get in and out of express lane.

Another huge difference between the new express lanes in Henry and Clayton counties on I-75 and the current express lanes on I-85 is that the new lanes are reversible. That means during morning drive the express lanes will only carry northbound traffic toward Atlanta and during the afternoon commute, they will only allow southbound traffic headed to McDonough.

There will be safety gates in place to make the switch from northbound to southbound. I’m not sure if there will be set times when the lanes are switched and I don’t know what direction the lanes will be during overnight hours or on the weekend.

The big question of course is what does this mean for traffic? According to the tollway authority using the express lanes will save commuters up to 12 minutes and with the traffic diverted into the express lanes, the regular lanes should be up to four minutes faster.

I don’t doubt that traffic will be eased in this increasingly jammed corridor between McDonough and Stockbridge. I also really like that the new express lane will be walled of from the regular lanes. I am a big fan of these types of lanes because they limit confusion and illegal merges in and out of the lanes.

Drivers that want to use the new express lanes will have to have a Peach Pass. That is the same method of payment currently being used for the I-85 express lanes. Peach Pass holders are also able to use the pass in Florida and North Carolina which can make a huge difference on road trips.

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