ATLANTA — Georgia motorists don’t seem to be paying much attention yet to what will be the largest highway construction project in state history.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the state is a few months away from signing a final contract for $840 million to add optional toll lanes to Interstates 75 and 575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties.
The Georgia Department of Transportation website only received 10 public comments about the proposed bidders last month. Less than 50 people attended two public information sessions in July. But officials said they expect the public to embrace the project once they learn more.
Work on the reversible toll lanes is supposed to start late next year and be finished by spring 2018.
Lois Brett of Woodstock told the newspaper she hadn’t heard about the30 miles of toll lanes. “I probably wouldn’t use it unless there was a wreck and I had to because I had a screaming baby in the back seat,” she said while taking her two children to the library.
Kennesaw State University students Jasmine Neville and Tia Mitchem, both 18 and from Snellville, said they couldn’t afford the toll lanes. “That’s my food money,” Neville said.
The toll lanes are the state’s principal plan for alleviating congestion in the metro Atlanta area. Area voters last year rejected a penny sales tax to fund transportation projects, and officials say gas taxes aren’t enough alone to widen interstate highways without adding a toll.
The area on I-75 just south of I-575 is one of the most congested in the region, carrying about 200,000 vehicles a day.
When people talk about not using the future toll lanes, transportation officials point to the toll lane on I-85 from the Perimeter to Old Peachtree Road. Few people used the 16-mile stretch initially, but over time it became popular. The average cost for the trip is about $1.50, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation.
The new project will have two new reversible lanes hugging the west side of I-75 between I-285 and I-575. A single reversible lane also will be added in the I-75 center median north of the I-575 interchange extending to Hickory Grove Road, and on I-575 from where it branches from I-75 out to Sixes Road. A barrier will separate the lanes from the main road.
Cherokee County Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens said the project will be an economic boon to the area and help alleviate traffic that has worsened with the opening of a 90-store outlet mall off I-575.
“It’ all positive,” Ahrens said. “The only negative to it is that it’ll take a while to get done.”