Truckers and other drivers traveling around Atlanta could
soon be subject to added fees.
Legislators in Cobb and Cherokee counties have expressed
support for a private consortium’s proposal to build express toll lanes along
Interstates 75 and 575 years before a similar state plan would do it.
The group of private contractors, dubbed Georgia
Transportation Partners, wants to construct 26 miles of barrier-separated toll
lanes that would accommodate cars and a new bus rapid transit system of
train-like express buses.
The state Transportation Department also plans to build
high-occupancy vehicle lanes, or HOV lanes, and launch bus rapid transit along
the same corridor, running along I-75 from I-285 in Atlanta north to Hickory
Grove Road, and up I-575 to Sixes Road in Cherokee County. But that project is
not scheduled to begin until 2009. The consortium believes they could finish it
by 2011, shaving seven years off the completion time.
The group’s proposal includes an option to add a separate
set of mandatory toll lanes for large trucks, The Associated Press reported.
Under a 2-year-old law, companies can propose building roads
outside the traditional low-bid regulations for certain badly needed projects.
The same law is being used in a proposal to convert 39 miles of Georgia 316 to
a tollway from Lawrenceville to Athens.
The contractors propose using state and federal money. But
the bulk of funds would come from revenue bonds that would be repaid by the
For commuters who opt to use the limited-access lanes, tolls
could range from 10 cents per mile off-peak to 40 cents per mile during peak
travel periods. A truck toll amount was not disclosed.
“I want traffic solutions and if private industry can do it
faster, we ought to consider it,” said state Senator-elect John Wiles,
Cutting yeas off the project could be worth the projected
tolls costs, said state Rep. Calvin Hill, R-Canton.
“I know only what I’ve seen in the newspaper, but being able
to get it years in advance makes a huge difference,” Hill said.
According to The AP, the for-profit consortium,
including Bechtel Infrastructure and Georgia-based contractors Gilbert Southern
and C.W. Matthews Contracting, declined to say how many express toll lanes they
intend to build, citing competitive concerns. Toll traffic from I-75 would
merge back into regular traffic lanes or HOV lanes on I-75 south of I-285, and
Georgia law allows the plan to remain secret until the state
Transportation Board and House and Senate Transportation committees agree to a
deal, which could take months.