The Georgia Department of
Transportation has called adding “flex auto lanes” to congested highways in the
state unfeasible and unsafe. But that didn’t slow the Georgia House from
passing a bill to let commuters use emergency lanes and paved shoulders during
certain time periods.
The measure, which passed 103-57
on Feb. 16, would encourage – but not require – the highway agency to make it
The flex lanes would be used only
in certain hours, such as morning and evening rush hours, and never for more
than eight hours a day.
“We feel that Georgians –
predominately in the metro areas – need some relief from the congestion,” Rep.
John Lunsford, R-McDonough, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Is
it a permanent fix? The answer is: No. But we feel it is a pretty good
Georgia would need federal
permission to implement the program on interstates and major highways that were
built with federal funds.
Such programs already are in
effect in Connecticut, Washington state and Virginia.
Lunsford and Speaker Glenn
Richardson, R-Hiram, a bill co-sponsor, conceded there have been no feasibility
or safety studies done in Georgia but argued that using emergency lanes and
shoulders, where possible, is a quicker, cheaper way to untangle traffic than
widening the highways.
DOT Commissioner Harold Linnenkohl
is leery of the plan. He told the newspaper he has reservations that extend to
air quality issues and the durability of such lanes. He said using emergency
lanes for traffic would make clearing accidents more difficult and would leave
stranded vehicles without a safe place to go.
Mike Kenn, president of Georgians
for Better Transportation, says his group thinks the idea has merit.
“I don’t think it’s something you
want to discount out of hand,” Kenn said. “It’s obviously been applied in some
other states with some success.”
The bill would also allow solo
drivers to use high occupancy vehicle lanes, or HOV lanes, on the weekends.
Lunsford said the lanes should be open to all drivers when there isn’t much
HB273 has been sent to the Senate
for further debate.