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Toll lanes floated for Ga. 400
Reaction tepid at open house
400 WEB
Marlo Clowers, left, with the DOT discusses proposed express lanes on Ga. 400 with Linda Marrack during an open house Thursday at Piney Grove Middle School. - photo by Crystal Ledford

What’s next?

• A third and final open house on proposed Ga. 400 express lanes is set for 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at First Baptist Church of Sandy Springs, 650 Mount Vernon Hwy., N.E., Sandy Springs.

• Input will also be gathered through March 30 online at www.dot.ga.gov/ga400expresslanes.

About 100 people voiced their opinions on possible changes to Ga. 400 during a state Department of Transportation open house Thursday night.

The meeting at Piney Grove Middle School in south Forsyth was the second of three to gather public input for a feasibility study about possible express lanes along the busy corridor.

The project, if approved, would involve adding lanes that would require a fee of some sort to use.

Reaction to the concept, which DOT spokeswoman Teri Pope said would be similar to the high occupancy toll lanes on Interstate 85, was mixed Thursday.

“Why would I support another revenue stream for the government?” Marelli Gardner asked. “The government needs to stop spending and spending and spending. To me, this isn’t a feasible solution.”

Kevin Stanfield had a similar opinion.

“There’s no doubt something’s got to be done [about traffic on 400], but I don’t know if this is the answer,” he said.

According to Pope, the project would have at least one key difference to the I-85 high occupancy toll, or HOT, lanes.

“It would be different in that the 85 project took existing lanes and changed them into HOT lanes,” she said. “If approved, the 400 project would be new construction to create extra lanes. None of the current capacity would be taken up.”

The study is gauging whether people would be willing to pay for the additional toll lanes, which would likely use a value pricing system similar to the Georgia Peach Pass on I-85.

“We have data supporting the project, but now we need to know what the community thinks,” Pope said. “Would they support tolls? And if they won’t support tolls, then what ideas do they have that could improve Ga. 400?”

All the information will be reviewed and a decision could be made on the project by late summer or early fall, Pope said.

Attending the open house, Clifford Rudd said he appreciated the chance to weigh in on the proposed express lanes.

“It’s good they’re having a public forum like this,” he said. “Something has to be done. [Ga.] 400 is tough, but hopefully between the public input and their studies, the DOT will come up with something that’s a good balance between what the people want and what will work.”

Stanfield pointed to the current toll section of Ga. 400.

“It’s interesting how government doesn’t manage the funds well that they already have,” he said. “The toll already on 400 was supposed to stop [in 2011], but what happened to that?”

In fall 2010, the State Road and Tollway Authority extended the toll until 2020 to build projects along the corridor.

Pope said for those unable to attend Thursday’s meeting, the final open house will be Tuesday in Sandy Springs.