• Despite driver ire, HOT lanes more popular than ever


    GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - Toll lanes that aim to speed up the morning commute have been more popular than the state had imagined.
    It’s been just over three years since the 16-mile HOT lane on Interstate 85 opened. The stretch from Old Peachtree Road in Gwinnett County to Chamblee-Tucker in DeKalb County went from a High Occupancy Vehicle Lane to a High Occupancy Toll.
    State Road and Tollway Authority Executive Director Chis Tomlinson said more and more drivers are picking to pay to use the express lane.
    “In terms of usage, they’re more popular than ever,” Tomlinson said.
    SRTA’s projections three years ago compared to the actual number of trips through the end of the last fiscal year in June show 4.5 million more trips. Revenue is nearly $2.5 million more than expected, but the project still will not have paid for itself for another year.
    “That money goes back into the operation of the lanes, the maintenance of the system and providing the various support systems, such as this customer service center,” Michelle Weinblatt said.
    Drivers told Channel 2’s Steve Gehlbach, however, they do not want to pay to use the lane and they feel it’s a “waste of space.”
    But, despite the criticism, the numbers show people are using the lanes. Three years ago, the HOV lane was averaging 14,000 to 18,000 trips a day. That dropped to 7,500 when it became a toll lane. Now, the daily average is around 23,000.
    Those drivers are also paying more to use the HOT lane, averaging a dollar more per trip.
    Tomlinson said the tolls go up based on popularity, pricing some drivers out in order to keep the lane flowing.
    “If demand keeps increasing, then those prices are likely to rise as well,” Tomlinson said.
    The average toll for one trip is $2.20, including times when it’s a few pennies, to the peak of rush hour. 

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