Gwinnett's toll lanes at capacity



NORCROSS -- While Gwinnett's HOT lanes have reached their capacity, Gov. Nathan Deal said he is still concerned about the congestion caused by the conversion of the carpool lanes on Interstate 85.

Deal spoke about the toll lanes at a Norcross business opening Thursday, saying he learned that the lanes reached their capacity last week.

"It appears it is working, and it is achieving what it was intended to do," said the governor, who intervened in the operations days after they began in October.

At his behest, the toll rates were lowered and the state applied to federal officials for a waiver that would allow two-person carpools to use the lane for free. That application was denied, and officials have sought reconsideration. The Georgia Department of Transportation is also working to place another access point along I-85 north, at the governor's request.

Deal said Thursday he was not finished, despite the news of the success.

"We'll push for continued relief of congestion with DOT," he said.

Malika Reed Wilkins, a spokeswoman for the State Road and Tollway Authority, said usage has increased steadily over the past two and a half months.

"With the steady increase in usage in the Express Lanes, the lanes have reached capacity during morning peak hours with over 1,200 to 1,400 registered vehicles in the lane per hour for the past several weeks," she said. "In many instances we've seen volumes as high as approximately 2,000 vehicles per hour during morning peak hours."

According to statistics, usage has peaked at nearly 12,000 registered vehicles on weekdays.