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HOT lane plan: Officials ask for public's opinion

LAWRENCEVILLE - Officials are hoping hundreds of people will come to public meetings beginning this week on a plan to convert Gwinnett's carpool lanes to toll lanes.

So far, Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Teri Pope said, the majority of feedback has come from the carpooling community. But officials want to know if people will pay for an easier route through traffic.

"It's a whole philosophy of how to allow free flow movement in one lane," Pope said.

The project, which could be the first phase in converting the state's entire 44-mile high occupancy vehicle lane network, entails opening up the high occupancy vehicle lanes on Interstate 85 from Chamblee-Tucker Road to Old Peachtree Road to anyone - if they are willing to pay a toll.

Carpoolers will still be able to use the lane for free, but the eligibility would rise from two people per vehicle to three.

Issues such as the price of the toll and the enforcement are still being discussed, but Pope said officials want to incorporate drivers' thoughts into the plan.

"When we are talking tolls, people get very interested," she said, expecting up to 1,000 people total at the upcoming five meetings along the I-85 corridor.

"We are trying to get as many folks there as we can to find out what the users of the road think."

More details should be available in late May, when the DOT and State Road and Tollway Authority plan another set of public sessions.

People can also e-mail comments to hotlanecomment@jacobs.com and view information at www.dot.ga.gov.