• Grassroots effort forming to fight HOT lanes

    By: Kerry Kavanaugh

    Updated:

    ATLANTA,None - Hundreds of frustrated drivers are coming together to demand an end to the toll lanes on Interstate 85 between Gwinnett and DeKalb counties.

     Channel 2’s Kerry Kavanaugh talked to Howard Rodgers, the creator of a new petition circulating against the High Occupancy Toll lanes, on Monday. Rodgers told Kavanaugh he hopes his petition will become the game changer for Gwinnett and DeKalb county commuters. He launched a Stop the HOT Lane website calling for an immediate suspension of toll lanes on the highway.

     "One person doesn't really make a huge difference. However, many people working together does,” Rodgers said. "For both my wife, and I, it means an extra two to three hours a day between the two of us."

     Rodgers, who commutes from Lawrenceville to Fulton Industrial Boulevard, says commute times are out of control both on Interstate 85 and on surface streets.

    “Fulton Industrial, Buford Highway, Lawrenceville Highway, Peachtree Industrial, all of those roads are now clogged,” he said.  "In Gwinnett County, we have the highest rate of foreclosures in the state and we're throwing one more bill on top of them,” he added.

     Rodgers said he began circulating his petition on Thursday and as of Monday morning he tallied 1,200 signatures. From complaints about commute times to the toll cost, state Senator Renee Unterman told Kavanaugh she has heard it all about the HOT lanes.

     "My phones lit up just about as much as people were sitting in traffic," said Unterman. The Buford Republican said calls from frustrated drivers have been pouring in.

     "Their commute times have virtually doubled and they've doubled during a recession," she said.

     Channel 2 Action News has heard complaints that the tolls are under-used and over-priced. Gov. Nathan Deal temporarily adjusted the tolls to not exceed approximately $3 each way, but Unterman said some still can't afford it and they also can't afford to be late for work.

     Unterman said outside of grassroots efforts such as the petition, there's not a good way for commuters to make their voices heard. She told Kavanaugh it's important the state get this right or it could have dire consequences on the upcoming vote on a transportation sales tax

     "People are losing confidence in government, losing confidence in the DOT and why should they vote on giving more money,” she said.

     Unterman, along with other state lawmakers, will host a town hall meeting on Monday Oct. 24 to hear from commuters about the HOT lanes.

    It will take place at 7 p.m. at the North View Church located at 2000 Gravel Springs Road in Buford.

     Kavanaugh exchanged email with state officials on Monday who said they are willing and open to receiving feedback on the HOT lanes any way they can. They are working on getting more details to see if a representative of the State Road and Tollway Authority will be able to attend the town hall meeting.

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