State DOT looks to extend I-85 optional toll lanes

State transportation leaders vowed they are full steam ahead on the plan to build optional toll lanes in metro Atlanta, including building new ones on I-85 north of Old Peachtree Road.

Even so, their biggest toll project ran into unusual dissent on the Department of Transportation’s board Wednesday.

The I-85 project would extend the current HOT lane in Gwinnett County northward, either to Hamilton Mill Road or to Chateau Elan. But this time it would also construct a new lane so that drivers in the regular lane wouldn’t lose space. It could go under construction in 2017, if approved.

Another optional toll lane is scheduled to go under construction in Henry County along I-75 within months.

The biggest optional toll lane project, along I-75 and I-575 in Cobb and Cherokee Counties, is in procurement.

It could cost nearly $1 billion.

On Wednesday, a committee of the board re-confirmed its support for the I-75/I-575 project, voting to declare the project in the best interests of the state, and confirming that DOT would spend up to $536 million on it as well as other borrowing. The full board is slated to vote on the resolution Thursday.

The state has stumbled with the project over several years.

So leaders who favor the project want it to go smoothly this time.

But at the board meeting Wednesday, argument about it erupted. Board member Dana Lemon said she was”really concerned” at the “huge” amount of state gas tax money that would go toward this project alone: $300 million, or perhaps much more.

She also said she was dismayed that any extra toll revenues probably won’t go toward mass transit, according to DOT’s preliminary analysis.

DOT staff said they were still looking into the transit question.

As to the gas tax money, DOT staff including Planning Director Toby Carr pointed out that project was expensive, but had been approved by the board as a state priority.

DOT hopes to get bids in June 2013. The teams that DOT has approved to bid are:

  • C.W. Matthews Contracting Co., Inc., and the Michael Baker Corp. Matthews is the state’s biggest road contractor by far.
  • Fluor-Lane LLC. This Irving, Texas-based company is developing one of the biggest HOT lane projects in the country, along the Capital Beltway in Washington, D.C.
  • Georgia Transportation Partners, a team including Bechtel Infrastructure Corp., Kiewit Infrastructure South Co., Dewberry and Davis, LLC, and STV Inc. Bechtel and Kiewit have a long history rolling with the punches on the I-75/I-575 project. They were the first to sign a public-private contract to develop it, in 2005.
  • Northwest Express Road Builders, comprised of Archer Western Contractors, The Hubbard Group and Parsons Corp. Archer-Western is a roadbuilder long active in Georgia. Hubbard calls itself Florida’s largest heavy civil construction company.

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