85 ramp meters go live Monday

LAWRENCEVILLE - They might look like traffic signals, but their proper name is ramp meters. And motorists on entrance ramps to Interstate 85 will begin seeing them in action next week at numerous exits in Gwinnett County.

The purpose behind the wanna-be traffic lights?

Georgia Department of Transportation Media Relations Manager Mark McKinnon said that answer is simple.

"Relieve congestion," he said.

The meters, which operate during peak rush hours depending on traffic patterns, usually cycle every 3 to 5 seconds from red to green. Obeying them just like a traffic light, this allows drivers one at a time to merge onto the freeway. Without these meters, GDOT said, vehicles push their way all at once onto the highway and into the travel lanes, resulting in further traffic backup at the entrance ramps. McKinnon said the ramp meters reduce fuel consumption, emissions and keep traffic "free-flowing." He said Gwinnett drivers should be on the lookout for them beginning Monday afternoon.

"There will be a short learning curve period in the first few days as the public adjusts," he said. "Keep in mind there is no one silver bullet solution to eliminate congestion. Ramp meters are just one of several tools that can help fight it."

Ramp meters have been in existence in cities across the nation for more than 20 years and there are 23 operating in metro Atlanta. By next week's end, 11 more will be in service along I-85 after an installation and testing process that went on for more than a year. In Gwinnett, drivers will see them on the northbound and southbound entrances at Jimmy Carter Boulevard, Indian Trail-Lilburn Road and Beaver Ruin Road. At Steve Reynolds Boulevard and Pleasant Hill Road, they will only be on the southbound ramps.

GDOT Director Steve Henry said it's the long term solution for commuters that it's thinking about with ramp meters.

"Although motorists will spend a little extra time on the ramp, they should see a decrease in overall travel time," he said.