Parkway toll study deal made
Reagan extension mulled

LAWRENCEVILLE - County officials could move forward on a project to use tolls to finance an extension of Ronald Reagan Parkway, connecting it to Interstate 85.

After nine months of negotiations with private company Skanska, officials have reached a tentative public-private partnership agreement to split the cost of exploring the idea.

The pre-development agreement, which is expected to be considered by commissioners at a hearing next Tuesday, would outline studies on a possible route, environmental factors, traffic and toll pricing to be analyzed over the next year.

If officials deem the project to be feasible and decide to move forward, the cost of the studies would be folded into the next phase and possibly be borne into the toll structure. But county officials could walk away at that point, agreeing to pay 59 percent of the costs or about $1.4 million with sales tax funds.

Commissioner Mike Beaudreau said the money would be well spent because of the "potential return on the investment."

"This is going to give people a chance to commute from Snellville and the Grayson area to downtown (Atlanta) potentially in 30 minutes," he said, saying it could shave commute times by 10 minutes. "Obviously the economy has changed and so have gas prices. ... We'll see if it is really doable."

The three-mile extension could link into the proposed high-occupancy toll lanes on I-85, Gwinnett Transportation Director Brian Allen said. Public comment would be included in the process, including determining the route, which could go by neighborhoods, he said.

"All those details have to be worked out over the next nine to 12 months," he said.