Opinion: Express lanes reshaping drive in Northwest Corridor

On September 8, Georgia took another major step forward in improving mobility with the opening of the new Northwest Corridor Express Lanes along Interstate 75 and Interstate 575 in Cobb and Cherokee Counties. The Northwest Corridor is the second new tolled reversible express lanes project in the metro Atlanta region and is the third express lanes project in Georgia. In addition to providing commuters in the corridor with an immediate transportation option, the Northwest Corridor Express Lanes will ultimately become a critical segment of a network of express lanes and roadway improvements across metro Atlanta.

The innovative design of the Northwest Corridor Express Lanes stretches nearly 30 miles along Interstate 75 from Akers Mill Road to Hickory Grove Road and along Interstate 575 from Interstate 75 to Sixes Road. The roadway is a largely elevated, barrier-separated system that provides additional capacity to accommodate travelers moving in the direction of greatest demand based on time of day, while utilizing electronic tolling technology to manage traffic flow with ease. With more than 220,000 vehicles traveling this corridor each weekday, the Northwest Corridor Express Lanes provide an option for motorists to take control of their commutes. Transit users will also see a tremendous benefit by having a much quicker and more reliable commute — all for the same fare.

Recognized as the largest transportation project of its kind in Georgia’s history and perhaps the most innovative express lanes project in the country, this project was no easy undertaking. It required years of planning, design and construction utilizing a public-private partnership (P3) contract – specifically a design, build, finance contract. While the public sector is ultimately accountable for the project, we were able to combine the design and build contracts into one and leveraged private-sector innovation and capital to accelerate project delivery. This is one type of contract that allows Georgia DOT to offer enhanced and expanded mobility options for motorists and for the freight industry.

Georgia DOT is appreciative of the project teams that have made this project a reality – our own team and those with whom we work in partnership at the State Road Tollway Authority (SRTA). We are also grateful for the ongoing support of Gov. Nathan Deal and the Georgia legislature. Public input helped shape the project and the continued involvement from civic and business communities that rely on the corridor has been tremendously important to its successful delivery. On behalf of all of us at the department, we thank you for your patience and support throughout this process.

Georgia DOT continues work on other projects that will relieve congestion, improve travel times and provide motorists with new options. A 10-mile extension of the I-85 Express Lanes in Gwinnett County will open later this fall. Other express lanes projects are in early project development along I-285 and State Route 400.

Any Georgia Express Lanes system can be accessed by motorists by obtaining a Peach Pass. Motorists pay a variable-rate toll based on the current volume of traffic in the lanes. Public transit providers and state-registered vanpools can use the express lanes for free but do require a Peach Pass. Please visit www.peachpass.com for information on how to obtain your Peach Pass. Safe travels – and we look forward to seeing you in Georgia's Express Lanes!

Coincidentally, this weekend Georgia DOT welcomes to Atlanta nearly 800 attendees to the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), one of the most important gatherings for transportation, government and commercial organizations. These dedicated and passionate industry experts and innovators from across the country are in town gathering for discussions and presentations centered on moving transportation forward. Many of the attendees are responsible for setting and implementing transportation policies in their respective states, and we couldn’t be prouder to show off our progressive stance in innovative transportation solutions to our colleagues from across the nation.

Russell R. McMurry, P.E., serves as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). For more information, please visit www.dot.ga.gov.

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