NORTH METRO ATLANTA — Officials with the Georgia Department of Transportation fielded some 50 questions about the Ga. 400 express lanes project during an online outreach session Sept. 1.

The $1.6 billion project, set for completion in 2026, calls for adding express lanes in each direction along the highway from I-285 north 16 miles to McFarland Parkway in Forsyth County. The project is one of 11 initial Major Mobility Investment Programs designed to reduce traffic congestion along major corridors around Atlanta.

The outreach session ran for two hours and drew some 150 people online. GDOT officials addressed some 50 questions, most of them pertaining to the added noise encroaching into nearby residential areas. One environmental impact draft has estimated the extra lanes could increase traffic noise levels by an average of 4.7 decibels along the route.

Tim Matthews, program manager for GDOT’s Major Mobility Investment Program, said the Ga. 400 project is now in the project development phase. Over the next several months, the department will produce a concept report, present public information sessions and allow for comment, begin acquisition of right of way and select a developer.

One of the key elements of this phase, Matthews said, is conducting studies to determine the project’s environmental impact.

“We have to determine how the project should be developed for public use, so this document helps us determine the public benefit from this project,” Matthews said.

The Draft Environmental Assessment is available for review on the GDOT website.

The department already has some 66.7 miles of express lanes operating in sections of Metro Atlanta, including along I-575 to the north, along I-75 north and south of Atlanta and along I-85 north into Gwinnett County.

Miles Kemp, senior Environmental Transportation Planning manager with GDOT, said the agency’s Virtual Meeting Room provides visitors with access to the most current studies on which areas along the route will experience increases in noise levels. Those studies will be updated throughout the process, he said.

One question posed during the session sought to find out why GDOT is adding toll lanes instead of general purpose lanes.

“We can’t widen our way out of congestion,” Matthews said. “We believe express lanes provide a better chance of delivering reliable trip times.”

Department studies show that express lanes can cut travel times significantly. One study showed that travel time from Marietta to Alpharetta can be cut by as much as 24 minutes.

Matthews said the express lanes will also relieve traffic by providing bus rapid transit vehicles and van pools registered with the state access to more reliable trip times for customers, which could boost ridership.

Tolls, paid through a Peach Pass account, will fluctuate with demand. The minimum charge will be 10 cents a mile, officials said, but there may be occasions where a flat fee of 50 cents could cover the entire stretch.

Pat Fox is the Managing Editor of Appen Media Group.

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