Earlier this year, the Georgia Department of Transportation hosted five Public Information Open Houses to provide project information and solicit public comments on the State Route 400 Express Lanes project. We welcomed more than 1,200 attendees and received more than 500 comments. We are grateful to those who attended to provide this valuable feedback.
Additionally, a number of questions were posed during and after these meetings. Georgia DOT is committed to responding to those questions and keeping the public informed. An official response is nearing completion and will be posted to the project webpage: dot.ga.gov/DS/GEL/SR400.
Many of you told us that you preferred transit alternatives over the proposed express lanes. Georgia DOT agrees that transit solutions are critical to the region and Georgia’s future. There is shared vision by MARTA, The ATL, Fulton County, State Road and Tollway Authority and Georgia DOT that the SR 400 Express Lanes will provide for transit opportunities in a new manner.
This opportunity may be referred to as Express Lanes Transit (ELT). Georgia DOT is supporting this opportunity by constructing the Express lanes to accommodate future ELT stations along SR 400 that tie directly to MARTA’s North Springs Station. This work is being funded by $100 million of transit bonds, which were approved by the General Assembly and Gov. Nathan Deal in 2018. Think of the ELT future as an extension of MARTA’s Red Line minus the rails.
The express lanes provide reliable trip times for ELT riders, as well as for motorists who choose to use the lanes. The lanes are managed by dynamic, demand-based pricing to mitigate congestion in the lanes – as demand during peak hours increases, so does the price; as demand falls, the price falls.
A network of express lanes on I-75, I-85, along I-285 and SR 400 will ultimately serve millions of motorists and transit users throughout the metro Atlanta region, providing reliable trip times to you, your neighbors and those in neighboring communities. Transit users will only pay their transit fare regardless of the price in the express lanes.
Benefits of express lanes are proven.
Four existing express lane corridors are currently in operation in Georgia. Since opening last September, travel times in the Northwest Corridor Express Lanes along I-75 and I-575 are 30 percent faster than the general-purpose lanes during peak travel times, and the general-purpose lanes are seeing travel as much as 20 mph faster during peak times.
As a result, rush hours in Cobb and Cherokee counties have been reduced by over an hour during the morning and evening commutes, benefitting motorists and bus transit riders alike. More efficient and faster highways can mean fewer motorists bypassing those congested roads on surface streets in your community.
The Georgia DOT has attended or held approximately 150 presentations and meetings to share information and seek input. These meetings have been attended by thousands of residents like you, and I’m proud of the extensive efforts to work with the community.
We’ve received comments regarding the property acquisition process, noise barriers and potential impacts to schools, access points, elevated structures and environmental questions. These comments are reviewed and we strive to address the concerns such to minimize all impacts. This is often an iterative process where one solution may cause another impact.
Our goal is to achieve the best project with the fewest impacts. Express lanes, which provide improved mobility for users and non-users, can also serve as a backbone for future transit options — and do so at the best value. For example, a similar 16-mile investment for heavy rail in the corridor could cost as much as $500 million a mile, almost seven times the cost of the 400 Express Lane project, which also provides for a transit corridor.
We pledge to continue providing the best information available throughout this process, which includes more public meetings. As the project’s design concepts develop, we will continue to release new information and continue to meet with stakeholders to ensure the best possible project is delivered for the region and Georgia.