HOT Lanes: Project to open after Labor Day

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

LAWRENCEVILLE -- It won't be quite as hot when the long-awaited HOT lanes open along Interstate 85.

Officials have not set an opening for the toll project, which will be the introduction of congestion pricing to the state. But they decided to wait until after Labor Day, after conversations with school administrators brought out a concern of changing traffic patterns at the same time when school bus drivers and parents are learning their routes.

Construction to create signage and a fiber-optic network to produce the tolling system along the high-occupancy lanes between Chamblee-Tucker Road and Old Peachtree Road will be complete by the end of this month. But people won't have to pay to use the lanes until September, said Malika Wilkins of the State Road and Tollway Authority.

But commuters can start their preparations for the change, which gives free rides to carpools of three or more but also allows people driving only to pay 10 to 90 cents a mile, depending on how fast traffic is moving compared to the rest of I-85's traffic.

Phil Krajec, a Lawrenceville man who has been using the HOV lane as he carpools to work in the Buckhead area, said he and his carpool partner have been talking about the change for months. But they haven't decided what to do and he has been disappointed. "I think the state has done a pretty poor job of educating people," Krajec said, asking questions about how carpoolers can get the free ride (they have to have a Peach Pass but can log into their account as a carpooler) and other questions.

"I have incomplete information about how to do this in real life," he said. "I still haven't figured out how this is going to help traffic."

Commuters will have an extra month or so to get answers, many of which can be found at www.peachpass.com. The tollway authority is giving away the first 300,000 Peach Passes for free, although commuters must fork over a $20 fee, which will be used to pre-pay tolls.

To register, go to the website, or call 1-855-PCH-PASS (1-855-724-7277).

People searching for a third carpooler can get help from the Clean Air Campaign at www.cleanaircampaign.org.

The project also includes several additional transit routes, which can be found at xpressga.com.