Groundbreaking begins work on I-75/I-575 toll lanes

Workers broke ground Wednesday on the giant “Northwest Corridor” toll lane project, an $840 million development through Cobb and Cherokee counties that amounts to the most expensive state road project in Georgia history.

The project along I-75 and I-575 will build 30 miles of two reversible toll lanes separated by a barrier. It will take four years to complete.

“This is probably the greatest example of cooperation in the transportation arena that our state has already had,” said Gov. Nathan Deal, who celebrated the groundbreaking at a Marietta construction site.

The project, along with the planned overhaul of the interchange at Ga. 400 and I-285, form the linchpin of Deal’s transportation strategy after voters in most parts of the state in 2012 rejected a sales tax for infrastructure projects.

What to do in the wake of the failure of the tax, known as the T-SPLOST, has factored in Deal’s tight race for re-election against Democratic state Sen. Jason Carter of Atlanta.

Carter said Wednesday that Deal has failed to show leadership on infrastructure funding after the tax’s failure, and he accused the governor of urging legislators not to work on solutions until after the election.

“If that’s his attitude,” Carter said, “we’re not going to solve problems and we’re going to keep moving backward.”

Deal called those accusations baseless and pointed to the construction project as a sign his plan was taking root.

Unlike the express lane project along I-85, which converted existing lanes to tolls, the Northwest Corridor involves the construction of two new lanes.

Those willing to pay the floating toll fee will have speedier commutes, while those who don’t will likely face gridlock on one of the most congested highways in metro Atlanta.