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Three anti-express lanes groups join forces

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Frustrated by traffic in the days following the start up of the HOT lanes system on Interstate 85, three men turned to the Internet to start a fight and find others willing to protest.

On Thursday, they joined forces.

Victor Ramkissoon, who began the Facebook Against the Peach Pass page, Howard Rodgers, who began an online petition at stopthehotlane.com and Chris Haley, who began a blog at stoppeachpass.org, announced the creation of StolenLanes.org, a group that solidifies the opposition in the community.

"The number of citizens represented by our combined coalition is a force to be reckoned with," Howard Rodgers said in a press release, adding that the three had a combined group of 10,000 supporters.

"The number of people opposed to the recent implementation of the HOT lanes keeps growing," Ramkisson, of Snellville, said. "This is not a problem that will go away without acknowledgement of the issue and a plan to correct it by (the State Road and Tollway Authority) and the Georgia Department of Transportation."

The groups are expected to converge at a town hall meeting next week.

Rodgers has been planning the event, set for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

"Our groups are banding together to support this cause and increase our strength in numbers," Haley said. "While some government officials try to downplay the seriousness of the impact to the community, we're stepping up to be recognized."

Comments

Mack711 2 years, 5 months ago

Go to the webiste: http://www.stolenlanes.org/ More detaield ingormation there about this group. It seems that the SRTA may be there after all. This should be an interesting meeting. Be sure to take a look at other failed toll roads in other states. If what we read about other states is correct Georgia may be the next one to fail.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 5 months ago

Their efforts of Victor Ramkissoon, Howard Rodgers and Chris Haley to try and push the State Road and Tollway Authority and the Georgia Department of Transportation to correct the issues with the HOT lanes on I-85 and the widespread congestion that they've caused are very much greatly appreciated.

But it would have been much better if the three frustrated Gwinnettians could have teamed up before Tuesday's election as the passage and the renewal of the E-SPLOST has given the backers of the HOT lane concept and next year's T-SPLOST a really big burst of confidence.

Because of the passage and renewal of the E-SPLOST on Tuesday, the state is under the assumption that the opposition to the HOT lane concept and the T-SPLOST referendum isn't all that organized and that resistance to those initiatives will be not be much of a factor. Because of the easy passage of the E-SPLOST the state is planning to double-down on the HOT lane concept and will forge ahead with plans to put the tolled express lanes on every major stretch of interstate and freeway in Metro Atlanta. The state may even forge ahead with plans to convert yet another lane in each direction on I-85, this time a general-purpose lane, to a tolled HOV-3 lane so that there are TWO HOT lanes in each direction on I-85 from Spaghetti Junction through Gwinnett to the I-985 split.

If Mr. Ramkissoon, Mr. Rodgers and Mr. Haley could have put something together before Tuesday's election and descended on the polls with their 10,000 supporters in Gwinnett County, which has the largest block of center-right voters in the State of Georgia and one of the largest blocks of center-right voters in the entire Southeastern U.S., a HUGE and undeniable message could have been sent to the powers-that-be at the county, state, regional levels of government.

The good news is that there are still a couple of chances (at the most) to stop and even turn back the HOT lanes trend that the idiots at SRTA and GDOT are totally obsessed with before we truly are stuck with these crappy lanes FOREVER.

For those who did not see it the first time I posted it, here's a link to an article in a national toll roads newsletter that shows the state's plans to expand the HOT lane system on I-85 and throughout all of Metro Atlanta. Be sure to read the section at bottom of the page titled "Managed Lane Network" that details the state's plans to the HOT lane network, including plans to convert another lane in each direction on I-85 through Gwinnett so that their are TWO HOT lanes in each direction on the road:

http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/5540

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 5 months ago

If the three gentlemen (Victor Ramkissoon, who began the Facebook Against the Peach Pass page, Howard Rodgers, who began an online petition at stopthehotlane.com and Chris Haley who began a blog at stoppeachpass.org), who began a blog at stoppeachpass.org can motivate their legion of supporters who oppose the I-85 HOT lanes, which numbers 10,000-plus and growing, to descend on the polls to vote down the T-SPLOST referendum next July (and motivate those who oppose the lanes to turnout to the polls to also vote against the T-SPLOST in Cobb and Cherokee Counties where the State (GDOT) is planning to install more HOT lanes in the I-75/575 Northwest Corridor), it will be key to sending a message to state government how unpopular and UNWANTED by the public these lanes are.

The next best chance (and likely, last chance) to stop the continuation and the expansion of the HOT lane concept in Gwinnett and throughout Georgia will be the 2014 Republican Gubernatorial Primary when Governor Nathan Deal comes up for re-election.

Governor Deal received more votes from Gwinnett in the 2010 Primary and General Election then he did from any other county in the state while losing heavily in Cobb in the 2010 Primary.

Deal needs to win big in Gwinnett to win in a tight primary, if Deal doesn't win Gwinnett then his electoral performance is greatly affected as Gwinnett is basically where the base of his support lies. If Deal loses both Gwinnett and Cobb in the primary (depending on how scary his opponent is) then it sends a resoundingly loud message that gets the stark attention of the powers-that-be and can put a stop to these lanes.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 5 months ago

""This is not a problem that will go away without acknowledgement of the issue and a plan to correct it by (the State Road and Tollway Authority) and the Georgia Department of Transportation.""

The state and the powers-that-be don't want the problems with congestion to away.

There are some deeper underlying motives here surrounding the creation of these lanes as the state, at the behest of the powers-that-be that REALLY run the show in these parts (DEVELOPERS and LAND SPECTULATORS, of course) put these lanes in to INCREASE congestion.

By using a captive audience to increase congestion not only do they artificially create demand for the HOT lanes, but they also create quickly demand for transit alternatives outside the I-85 right-of-way that may not necessarily be there otherwise.

It looks like these HOT lanes were created on I-85 to make the option of a MARTA extension from the Doraville Station to the Gwinnett Arena and Convention Center and commuter rail service on the Norfolk Southern/Amtrak rail line that parallels I-85 and I-985 and commuter rail service on the CSX/Brain Train rail line that parallels Hwy 29 and Hwy 316 attractive to motorists and financially viable much more quickly than it likely would have.

The state is basically using the HOT lanes to aggravate and create more congestion to force people to ride in the toll lane use mass transit lines that land speculators are looking to profit from by developing land (brownfields and greenfields) around the proposed stations on the lines. Hence the plans to implement yet another lane in each direction on I-85 to create more congestion and more demand for the tolls and future mass transit lines that are tabbed to anchor development like the interstates anchored automobile-centered commercial and residential development in the past.

They're planning to use the HOT lanes as a tool of social engineering by the state to force people to pay tolls and use future mass transit line that haven't been built yet (buses, MARTA-style heavy rail and commuter rail).

Their intent to force people to use mass transit is the reason why the road improvements proposed for Gwinnett on the upcoming T-SPLOST list, the state's second-largest county with over 800,000 residents, are minimal to say the least. Here's a link to the Atlanta Regional Roundtable's map of planned transportation projects that illustrates that point:

http://www.atlantaregionalroundtable.com/documents/project_maps/GWINNETT.pdf

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Mack711 2 years, 5 months ago

After reading your comment and taking a look at the map it starts to come together. This is another way to have us go to Mass Transit. Each of us should take a look at this and see what is in the long range plans for the Atlanta area. Developers and others stand to make $$$millions of this deal. Do you think that any on SRTA stand to make anything from this plan?

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 5 months ago

Of course people at SRTA stand to make something from this, both collectively and individually as Jannine Miller who is on the board at SRTA and a few of her co-workers and the agency as a whole hold the patents for the technology used (cameras and sensors) used to monitor the lanes. If the technology is used anywhere else they all stand to profit.

Plus, GDOT, from which SRTA basically grew from as many former and some current GDOT employees work at SRTA, has a long history of being in bed with roadbuilders.

The Speaker of the Georgia Statehouse, David Ralston took a trip to Germany last year that was funded by a European company that makes passenger trains that is looking to have their trains used on future light rail, commuter rail and the future high-speed route between Atlanta and Chattanooga.

The state legislature has been really chummy with roadbuilders historically, but since the anti-road people inside I-285 have seemingly taken control and have a lot of sway over the legislative process and are finding ways to discourage the state from building as many roads as may be needed, the legislature is starting to get really chummy with trainbuilders as those trainbuilders and developers are starting to see a huge untapped transit rail market in an Atlanta Region with six million people, which is the largest metro area East of the Mississippi WITHOUT a commuter rail network.

Here are a couple of links that illustrate the massive scale of the commuter rail network planned for Metro Atlanta and North Georgia. Notice the two rail lines proposed for Gwinnett that run parallel to both sides of the I-85/Hwy 316 Corridor on the first map:

http://www.dot.state.ga.us/travelingingeorgia/rail/Documents/CommuterRailMap.pdf

http://www.dot.state.ga.us/maps/Documents/railroad/nga_passenger.pdf

HOT lanes are about adding little, if any, capacity to the freeway system so as to increase demand for a passenger rail system that doesn't exist yet.

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Mack711 2 years, 5 months ago

If you look at the maps here it appears that the rail will follow very closely to NS and CSX tracks. Before MARTA came in, then, Southern said that they could install tracks and operate the system. Atlanta said NO, we will build that system with tax money. MARTA follows NS tracks from I 85 and Peachtree to Doraville on the North side. They followed CSX east to west. These maps may have been proposed back in the 1960's when MARTA first started, not sure on that. Another item is that there was a rail facility in Winder that could build the cars for MARTA and keep Americans working, instead MARTA went to France to get their rail cars. Maintence costs on these cars are very high since parts eigher have to be made or imported or rebuilt to fit. Why not get these cars made here instead of Germany? Keep America working and our Tax $$$$ here in Georgia, for Georgians.

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dan 2 years, 5 months ago

T-SPLOST and HOT lanes are not related and this is no reason to not support the referendum next year. If T-SPLOST does not pass next year you will most likely see even more toll roads built. T-SPLOST will provide an alternative to tolls for funding different road projects throughout the Atlanta region.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 5 months ago

But oh contraire, T-SPLOST and HOT lanes ARE related as the state (through GDOT) is quietly planning on raiding T-SPLOST revenues from Cobb County to help fund the $300 million publicly-funded portion of the $1.2 billion I-75/I-575 Northwest Corridor HOT lane project.

Hence, the $110 million that was diverted from an unpopular $857 million light rail line proposal that is now tabbed for "premium bus service" on I-75 which means HOT lanes on which any buses will run.

Also, aside from the $177 million that has been diverted from the proposed Midtown-to-Cumberland light rail line, there's nothing in the law that says that the remaining $570 million tabbed for the line cannot be diverted to help fund more of the cost of the I-75/575 HOT lane project in case the $700 million in private funds never materializes.

If the T-SPLOST does NOT pass then state officials can NOT raid the funds to build more HOT lanes, making the building of future HOT lanes that cannot financially support themselves almost impossible.

This article helps to illustrate the point that funds tabbed for projects on the T-SPLOST list can be shifted to other projects AFTER the referendum passes as the TIA has no enforcement mechanism to make sure that the money goes to the projects on the list that it is designed for-

http://clayton-neighbor.live2.communityq.com/stories/TSPLOST-Transportation-Tax-Dangerous-for-Taxpayers,177167?content_source=&category_id=29&search_filter=&event_mode=&event_ts_from=&list_type=&order_by=&order_sort=&content_class=&sub_type=&town_id=&page=2

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 5 months ago

Even if the T-SPLOST passes, toll roads will be built anyway.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 5 months ago

Also, there are a couple of "projects" on the T-SPLOST list that include $95 million to "study" transit alternatives in the I-85 North Transit Corridor (number "TIA‐GW‐031" on the T-SPLOST list) and $40 million for Gwinnett bus service (number "TIA-GW-073" on the T-SPLOST list) that could very much likely be diverted to convert a second lane on each side of I-85 to another HOT lane so that there are TWO HOT lanes in each direction on I-85 as there is nothing in the law to prevent those funds from being used to build more HOT lanes on I-85 and Hwy 316.

Here's a link to the "final" T-SPLOST project list. All of the projects proposed for Gwinnett are listed between numbers "TIA-GW-003" and "TIA-GW-073" on the "final" list:

http://www.atlantaregionalroundtable.com/documents/final_report.pdf

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 5 months ago

The $6 billion-plus T-SPLOST will give the state access to a large part of the $16.2 billion-plus needed to buildout the HOT lane network all over Metro Atlanta and North Georgia.

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Mack711 2 years, 5 months ago

If they plan HOT lanes for the metro Atlanta area what are they planning for other cities in Georgia? Macon Valdosta Columbus better get ready for this to come to an interestate near them. Sure looks like it.

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juanita1 2 years, 5 months ago

Two things SRTA officials should have done while traveling down the "HOT LANE" route:

Huddle with the relevant Georgia Tech urban engineering experts BEFORE not AFTER launching this ill-fated experiment;

and have resignation letters on the governor's office ahead of time so that Mr. Deal won't have to ask for them if the time comes.

I would gently suggest that SRTA officials plan to show up at ALL future commuters' meetings and prepare to stay as long as necessary to answer questions. Otherwise, they need to start polishing resumes and shopping for new gigs in a very uncertain labor market.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 5 months ago

I'm not necessarily so sure that state officials see this HOT lane experiment as ill-fated, especially after voters didn't show up in large enough numbers to rebuff their taxing and tolling efforts by taking out their anger on the E-SPLOST as many expected.

The only way to make sure that this experiment truly is ill-fated is to make sure that the T-SPLOST is voted down, otherwise it's FULL SPEED AHEAD on the HOT lane concept on I-85 and throughout Metro Atlanta and North Georgia as if the T-SPLOST passes the powers-that-be will be armed with the funds needed to implement another HOT lane in each direction on I-85 and a network of HOT lanes all over region that will dramatically increase demand for proposed mass transit rail lines.

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OutofMoney 2 years, 5 months ago

I said in a earlier post when the HOT lane issue came up that SRTA was going to the biggest winner in all this. If you look throughout the county were the buses pickup, since HOT lanes ridership has increased beyond belief. It is as stated, to be forced down our throats until we either give in a use the lanes or give in and ride the bus system thus leading to MARTA coming to the ends of Gwinnett County.

This type leadership seems to be in all parts of Gwinnett County Gov. to include the school system. We as the public seem to have "no" say in what happens. Please don't follow up and say that SPLOST got voted in. It got forced in.

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Mack711 2 years, 5 months ago

Have been listening to WSB radio this morning and they have already started pushing to pass T-SPLOST. Several commercials have been made on this subject and urging us to vote T-SPLOST in. Why are they starting so early if the election in not until July I think? The only reason is to scare the voters and have them think that this is the only way to relieve traffic is to pay twice for the same lanes again. We need to get the word out and mostly the VOTE out. Sounds like this may be the only thing on the ballot once again. This is to ensure it will pass just like in the last election.

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hpytravlr 2 years, 5 months ago

The GDOT obviously has enough money. Thsi would simply be a tax on Gwinnett to pay for City of Atlanta's roads. We get NOTHING out of the SPOLST.

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Don_Coyote 2 years, 5 months ago

TSPLOST is only related to the HOT lane in that both involve misspent tax dollars, lets deal with the one at hand here first. At least with TSPLOST we will get to vote on the matter. We were not granted that privilege with the HOT lanes and I will not follow the GDP's choice here to use SRTA's current appellation for the High Occupancy TOLL lanes. Spokesperson Malika Reed Wilkins, Ph.D., Director of Marketing with SRTA has chosen to use Express Lane now in a move that would have made George Carlin proud. Doesn't Express Lane sound so much better than Toll Lane? It also makes the opposition to these lanes sound as if they are against progress and just pure evil, why they are now ANTI-EXPRESS LANES in the headlines. Words are fun aren't they?

And so are numbers. Dr. Wilkins, Dr. Evans, et al have given us a barrage of numbers over the first month via a local media willing to parrot them seemingly without question. Dr. Wilkins press release touts that the number of motorists utilizing the lanes Tripled! during October. Upon examination this is comparing the first Monday after the weekend startup against the best day at the end of the month counting tolled & non-tolled alike. Yes their 10,000 motorists includes each trip coming and going by the Gwinnett Transit buses, Jannine Miller's GRTA buses, GDOT's HEROs, the Georgia State patrolmen dedicated to enforce the lanes, and maybe even a stray dog for all we know. They did admit on their facebook page that on average 23% of the totals are non-tolled and that even Dr. Evans Peach Pass is tolled ;) Another bandwagon number announced was 100,000 Peach Passes had been distributed. Sifting through that one we find that the bus fleets, commercial fleets and emergency vehicles are not limited on how many they obtain and 80,000 HAVE NOT BEEN USED.

Lastly it begs the question why a state agency needs a $100,000.00 (in fiscal year 2010) Marketing Director anyway if this toll "service" is such a deal for the taxpayer. Why if it is such a good thing that SRTA will not send even her to a Town Hall Meeting dedicated to just the HOT lane issues. The meeting is to be moderated by an editor of this paper and is in the Justice Center so I don't think there should be any fear of rabble rousing. Just questions from taxpayers, some of whom feel like their questions have been falling on deaf ears from both our local politicians and their bureaucrats that seemingly act with impunity.

Please take the time to come out to the first true Town Hall Meeting on the HOT lanes Nov. 17th at the Justice Center no matter which way you feel about the HOT lanes. If SRTA is not going to be there then it seems they will need someone to back them. Surely some of the current ~4,000 actual motorists are not reimbursed for their tolls and may wish to speak on their munificent agency's behalf. I am not affiliated with any of the groups that have organized this, just a fan and I will certainly be there.

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