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Accountability on minds of HOT lanes foes at town hall

Staff Photo: John Bohn Howard Rodgers, right, speaks during a town hall meeting that he organized for foes of the Route 85 HOT lanes, Thursday evening at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. At left is Georgia State Senator Curt Thompson, D Tucker.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Howard Rodgers, right, speaks during a town hall meeting that he organized for foes of the Route 85 HOT lanes, Thursday evening at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. At left is Georgia State Senator Curt Thompson, D Tucker.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Thomas D. Wight, of Lilburn, speaks during a town hall meeting for foes of the Route 85 HOT lanes, held Thursday evening at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Baruch Feiganbaum of Reason Foundation speaks during a town hall meeting for foes of the Route 85 HOT lanes held Thursday evening at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- With empty seats set for government leaders, Gwinnettians angry over toll lanes talked about increasing accountability in a time when even local senators have no control.

"There is no representation to the taxation we are suffering right now," said Howard Rodgers, a Lawrenceville man who organized Thursday's town hall meeting after creating an online petition to stop the HOT lanes, which were activated on Interstate 85 last month.

Sens. Renee Unterman and Curt Thompson, the only two officials who attended Thursday's town hall meeting, out of about 50 who were invited, said transportation governance would be a hot topic under the Gold Dome in January.

Thompson said a system that took political cronyism out of transportation decisions decades ago created an "ivory tower" at the Georgia Department of Transportation.

"I don't want to vote where every traffic light goes," said Thompson, whose district includes 10 miles of the 16-mile corridor where tolls are paid. "I should have some input."

But since legislation will take time, and many officials declined to attend the event, the senators said the quickest way to stop the toll was to reach out to congressmen, since the managed lanes are a federal pilot project.

"Everyone tells me to sit back and wait, but it's very difficult," Unterman said, adding that officials have not given her an answer on when the idea will be reconsidered. "Gwinnett County is in a crisis, bt DOT does not even have a person to go to to complain to."

While the toll lanes have created a great deal of contention in the past six weeks, State Road and Tollway officials have said the idea is catching on, with more than 100,000 Peach Passes issued and usage passing 10,000 a day.

Less than 100 people attended Thursday's session, planned after a GOP town hall ended in frustration last month.

James and Marilyn Wall said the HOT lanes conversion even caused them to switch James's heart doctor for fear that they could not get to the hospital in time.

Marilyn Wall said she was alarmed that the potential loss of federal funds because carpool lanes were no longer meeting standards was behind the change.

"Our addiction to (federal money) caused use tremendous pains," she said, pointing to possible impacts on quality of life and even jobs. "Atlanta is losing out. Gwinnett is going to lose out."

But the Dacula couple was disheartened to learn that those in attendance had little hope of an immediate change.

"It doesn't seem like there is a thing they can do about it," James Wall said, adding that he supported the governance change. "I'd like to see anything done that would let the voices of the people be heard."

Comments

ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 5 months ago

""Everyone tells me to sit back and wait, but it's very difficult," Unterman said, adding that officials have not given her an answer on when the idea will be reconsidered."

Yes, sit back and wait...until the NEXT set of HOT lanes go into place in a process in which yet ANOTHER lane on each direction of I-85 will be converted to a tolled express lane so that I-85 has TWO Lexus Lanes in each direction.

Click on either or both of these links to check out the state's plans to implement a network of HOT lanes all over the Atlanta Region, a network that includes converting a free general purpose lane on each direction of I-85 so that the road has TWO HOT lanes in each direction. On the first link, be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the page to the section titled "Managed Lane Network" that has the plans for the regionwide HOT lane network in some detail:

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

http://dot.ga.gov/informationcenter/programs/studies/managedlanes/Documents/Corridor%20Evaluations%20and%20Recommendations.pdf

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 5 months ago

There have even been "informal" conversations within GDOT about implementing as many as THREE HOT lanes in each direction on some major roads in Metro Atlanta.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 5 months ago

"Sens. Renee Unterman and Curt Thompson, the only two officials who attended Thursday's town hall meeting, out of about 50 who were invited, said transportation governance would be a hot topic under the Gold Dome in January."

Despite the good intentions of Senators Unterman and Thompson, and despite the massive disruption to Gwinnettians' lives due the implementation of the HOT lane project, transportation will more than likely NOT be a hot topic under the Gold Dome in the coming session as state legislators will, of course, once again, find new and exciting ways to waste Georgia taxpayers' precious time and money with high-profile petty foodfights, blatant power grabs and shameless giveaways of public money to cronies, lobbyists and big business, as usual whenever legislators are not finding ways to make things worse then already are by helping this state to once again shoot itself in the foot, Barney Fife-style.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 5 months ago

"Marilyn Wall said she was alarmed that the potential loss of federal funds because carpool lanes were no longer meeting standards was behind the change."

The reason for the conversion of the HOV lanes from free two-person carpools to tolled three-person carpools is much deeper than a potential loss of federal funds.

The reason for the implementation of HOT lanes is to make traffic so bad that people will be begging for mass transit lines to be built into suburban mega-counties like Cobb, Gwinnett, Henry, etc.

The state plans to convert free lanes to tolled/HOT lanes across the region to create a massive market for rail-centered mass transit, at the behest of regional big-money corporate, land spectulation and commercial development interests who stand to make A LOT more money.

Since people in the Atlanta Region (especially in super-suburbs Cobb and Gwinnett) have been cool to embrace mass transit in the past and are still, understandably kind of cool to it now, the powers-that-be are going to use the HOT lane concept to force commuters in Gwinnett and Cobb to take the mass transit lines that are about to be extended out of Fulton and DeKalb Counties.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 5 months ago

If you think that traffic is bad now, just wait until the state implements another HOT lane on each direction of I-85, this time out of a free general purpose lane. Traffic will be so bad on I-85 and the surface streets that parallel it that drivers will be both begging for increased mass transit options and will be much more willing to pay to use the HOT lanes, which is what the powers-that-be are counting on to make the five, yeah that's right, FIVE future major mass transit lines much more financially viable than they might be without the HOT lanes in place to make traffic worse.

The five major mass transit lines that the state and regional powers-that-be are planning to run into the county are: 1) a high-frequency commuter rail line between Atlanta and Gainesville on the Norfolk Southern/Amtrak line that parallels I-85 & I-985, 2) high-frequency commuter express bus service in the HOT lanes on I-85, 3) the extension of the MARTA Northeast heavy rail line from the Doraville Station to the Gwinnett Arena/Sugarloaf area, 4) a high-frequency commuter rail line between Atlanta and Athens on the CSX/Brain Train rail line that runs through Central Gwinnett and parallels Highways 29 & 316, 5) high-frequency commuter bus rapid transit and express bus service on Stone Mountain Hwy/ US Hwy 78 between Atlanta and at least Monroe (likely Athens).

Check out the plans for the depth of expansion of mass transit in Gwinnett and the rest of the Atlanta Region at these links to the Atlanta Regional Commission and Georgia Department of Transportation websites:

http://www.atlantaregional.com/File%20Library/Transportation/Transit/Concept%203/Maps%20and%20GIS/tp_c3map_stylized.pdf

http://www.atlantaregional.com/File%20Library/Transportation/Transit/Concept%203/Maps%20and%20GIS/tp_c3map_geographic.pdf

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

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

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 5 months ago

At just under six million inhabitants, Metro Atlanta is the largest metro area East of the Mississippi without commuter rail service, a fact in which very powerful land speculation, commercial development and real estate interests all over the globe (especially Trans-Atlantic interests on the U.S. Eastern Seaboard in places like New York and in Western Europe and even as far away as Asia) are well aware of.

It is well to the advantage of these big money land spectulation interests to make what has been and what will likely continue to be, despite the crippling recession, an ever increasing and explosively fast-growing population in Gwinnett and the Atlanta Region desperately turn to mass transit by backing up traffic on major roads on I-85 so that mega-profits can be made off of commercial developments that will be built around every station and stop on vastly-expanded commuter and heavy rail lines throughout Gwinnett and North Georgia.

These HOT lanes are so much bigger than just fear of a loss of federal funding or clearing a lane of traffic, as in the big picture there are really wealthy interests backing this thing over the long-term to make rail-centered mass transit not only much more viable, but extremely profitable.

The two current HOT lanes on I-85 are just the beginning of a massive social engineering project of the likes that has never been seen before in this parts, a social engineering project that will bring a massive amount of international capital and investment into the Atlanta Region and North Georgia.

The HOT lanes on I-85 are only the first step of an initiative being spearheaded by local investors and speculators to make Atlanta one of the wealthiest cities on the planet (think Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Tokyo, New York, etc) by attracting ridiculous amounts of investment capital and numerous international buyers. Combine the plans for a regionwide HOT lane network with plans for a massive regionwide expansion of mass transit (bus, light rail, commuter rail, heavy rail) and the expansion of Port of Savannah which is already the second-busiest export container facility in the Americas (second only to Los Angeles) and will EXPAND yet again later this decade and you start to get the idea of the mind-bogging scale of the social engineering initiative that these HOT lanes are of apart of.

That the wealthy get their own lanes to ride in is just icing on a very sweet cake.

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Mack711 2 years, 5 months ago

Having attending this meeting last night and heard from our 2 Senators present and others. It is my thoughts that SRTA is not regulated by any department. SRTA took Federal funds that was offered to other cities whose citizens in some cases were permitted to vote on this issue turned down the offer. Therefore SRTA applied a got this Federal grant with all it's regulations attached. We were told that this is a pilot program that could last from 1 to 5 years depending on SRTA and the Federal government. Also it was said that over 700 FREE Peach Passes have been issued with more to come. Some were given to mass transit programs and emergency vehicles. There were no figures for how many went to the politicans. One speaked from Flordia stated that any way you looked at 'toll fee' is nothing more than a tax assement. These toll roads in Flordia have never paid for them selves stating that most of the toll is for collection services and to maintain the toll booths. So in a sense the tolls could never pay for the system. She stated that citizens have been charged with a crime for going through toll lanes with their version of the Peach Pass. Many have been fined and lots of money refunded to drivers. This can and will happen here as well. We must now go to the Federal level to get this stopped and must keep up the pressure on them to remind SRTA and the G-DOT that we have already paid for this one time and should not be required to pay again.

They also presented plans for the Metro area Toll lanes in the future. Get ready Georgia it will not stop in Gwinnett it will spread like wild fire through out the state if it is not stopped here and now.

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Hangdog 2 years, 5 months ago

What a slap in the face to all Gwinnett taxpayers and voters that no one from the governor's office, nor SRTA, nor GaDOT thought it was important enough to come to this meeting. I hope the voters remember this when election time comes again. I also hope that the bureaucrats at SRTA realize they are essentially betting that the voters will forget about their actions once TSPLOST comes up for a vote.

The continued lack of caring on their part as well as their ever-changing rhetoric is insulting to all Georgia tax payers and voters. I also hope the people in Cobb are paying attention to this mess because they are headed your way next.

SRTA knowingly takes the money from the federal government for this debacle, then essentially blames everything that happens on the feds. Insult upon insult to the taxpaying public. I hope the voters remember the way this group and the governor's office is treating us.

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Hangdog 2 years, 5 months ago

@Mack711 Actually, the breakdown of tags is like this. Keep in mind this includes Ga 400. SRTA constantly forgets to include that when they spout their rhetorical nonsense about how success their sales have been. That in and of itself is strange since they say it isn't about revenue, yet the primary figure they use to show the 'success' of the program is how many tags have been sold.

ACCOUNT TYPE TAG COUNT Emergency Non Revenue 2761 (Police, Ambulance) Post Paid (GOVT) 791 (assume State government workers) Toll (Corporate) 6422 (Paying companies) Toll (Personal) 92372 (Paying public) Toll Exempt 6231 (Buses, motorcyles) Total 108,577

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Mack711 2 years, 5 months ago

Thank you for filling in the blanks. Could not remember all the number as you did. You are correct they should have excluded GA 400 in their number releases to the press in regards to I-85 passes. We should compare apples to apples and seperate 85 and 400

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Buck11 2 years, 5 months ago

I'm by no means wealthy but I've been driving along 85 from Gwinnett to Atlanta for almost 20 years. I don't carpool because I generally don't have a regular schedule of when I'm leaving work or where I'm headed after work. I LOVE the HOT lanes. I couldn't wait for them to arrive from the moment I first heard about them. My current commute from Sugarloaf Pkwy & 316 used to take about 45 mins to and hour and 15 mins just to get to North Druid Hills. Now I'm home in anywhere from 25-30 minutes. My car's MPG average jumped up 10 miles now that I'm moving instead of stop & go.

I'm sorry that everyone that was a 2-person carpool now has to pay but I'm now happy that I can now choose to be in that lane (for a price) since my lifestyle and personal preference doesn't permit me to carpool.

If we get commuter trains...that would be great too! Maybe I'd get home even faster...or maybe it would be an option to go into Atlanta at night or weekends have a few drinks and not have to drive back to Gwinnett and take only a short cab ride home.

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Mack711 2 years, 5 months ago

Wait until enought Peach Passes are sold then the HOT lanes will be come as COLD lanes. There will be so much traffic in all lanes that there will be no advantatge to any lane.

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JohnGalt 2 years, 5 months ago

Why is it every time somebody brings up an advantage, it's all about them? We understand Buck11. Gwinnett County is littered with people who have such an entitlement mentality. We understand.

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kmsimpson 2 years, 4 months ago

Well Buck, on that note, how about the folks that have the correct carpool amounts but do not want to pay up front for the privilege of driving in a lane that we have ALREADY paid for through taxes!! We don't count in your little scenario or the government's.

The fact that you have to buy a pass before using the lane whether you have over 3 people in the car or not is proof positive that this is simply another tax. the government has no caring about whether we have paid for these lanes already or not. Our government has become nothing but a bunch of leeches sucking the life blood out of it's constituents by adding more and more taxes, fines, fees, levies, and other nameless charges.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 4 months ago

The fact that you have to buy a pass (and call in 15-20 minutes ahead of time) before using the lane whether you have three or more people in the car or not is also proof that they are clearing a lane for VIPs and the rich (wealthy investors with a keen interest in the I-85 Northeast Georgia corridor which is fast becoming a hotbed for distribution and manufacturing center relocations).

The I-85 HOT lanes were developed to keep the working stiffs out of the lanes so that the wealthy investors, venture capitalists and political VIPs would have a clear lane for them to travel in. They are Lexus Lanes in every sense of the word.

They also want the working stiffs to sit in the increased traffic and have to readjust their schedules so that they'll be begging for mass transit. Increasing the traffic in the remaining free general purpose lanes by converting two lanes in each direction on the highway is how they plan to increase demand for mass transit where it was not necessarily in great demand before (the state has plans to create one or maybe even two more HOT lane(s) in each direction on I-85). They're gonna make people ride transit by putting tolls on existing lanes and backing up traffic in the remaining free lanes on I-85.

This isn't about taxation because they don't want commoners in the I-85 HOT lanes. This is about social engineering by forcing people to ride transit by creating huge traffic jams on I-85. Do you know that the state is seriously talking about having as many as three HOT lanes created from existing lanes in each direction on I-85 between Spaghetti Junction and the I-985 split possibly by the end of the decade?

It's no accident that there just happens to be three rail mass transit lines (two commuter rail lines and a heavy rail line) in addition to a commuter express bus line planned to run parallel to the I-85 Corridor that these multiple HOT lanes are being placed on. These lanes are to make people stop using I-85 and start using those lines were they are built and go into operation later in the decade by creating bigger traffic jams now.

.

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Mack711 2 years, 5 months ago

One thing that was also mentioned at this meeting was the impact on local business. Large companies look at ease of transportation before locating to this area. Any expense that is caused by this toll lane back up will only be passed on to the consumer in higher prices for goods and services. At this time Gwinnett can not afford to lose any major large business. This is one important factor along with the delay that result in higher fuel cost and delays caused by this plan.

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ptm4936 2 years, 5 months ago

With 100 attending and 800,000 living in Gwinnett, I suggest "apathy" carried the day.

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Hangdog 2 years, 5 months ago

That is EXACTLY what Governor Deal and Gena Evans are hoping for.

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SuxBeanU 2 years, 5 months ago

I'm not sure that it's necessarily apathy, but maybe reality. Most people already know that neither our elected officials, nor those in GDOT or SRTA, are going to acquiesce to the will of the people. I think that most people in Gwinnett have become numb to the shenanigans of our politicians, whether it be spending, taxes, schools, land purchases or any of the other multitude of problems we have had over the last decade. Sadly, the fact is, politicians just don't care about what the people of Gwinnett want.

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Buck11 2 years, 5 months ago

Or maybe there aren't as many opponents as you think (hope).

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kmsimpson 2 years, 4 months ago

Unfortunately, not all of us are able to take off from our lives on a Thursday evening. Trust me, many more wanted to be there.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 4 months ago

The powers-that-be know that and are using that perceived apathy to their public relations advantage by trying to portray that there is as not really all that much opposition to these lanes as was originally presented.

Recent developments like the passage and renewal of the E-SPLOST on Election Day by a 20-point margin, only 100 people being in attendance at the meeting and calmer phones at the offices of SRTA have given state officials the impression that the anger and opposition to the I-85 HOT lanes has subsided.

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kevin 2 years, 5 months ago

The first place to look for accountability should be the GWinnett BOC and the Chairman. I am sure they were not blind-sided by this project until after it was approved.

The HOT project was discussed a long time with citizens by email, letters, phone. Almost all that I know said stop it. It is so obvious that someone's constituent(s) got a benefit from getting this these contracts. Just to take Federal money with such strings attached should have been well-known by those involved "before" the project was approved. I know public officials and stupid, but not that stupid.

This HOT has to go back to the HOV. All they had to do before was eliminate commercial vehicles from the HOV lanes and for "someone" to enforce the speed limits, the traveling in/out over solid lines, etc. That was hardly ever done from my experiences. I will NEVER pay again to use the jost stupid and useless HOT lane. I wonder how many fools put up their $20 for public officials to spend it, even though you only travel it in an "exempt" status.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 5 months ago

Who's going to hold the Gwinnett BOC and the Chairman accountable? The fewer than 10 percent of voters on average that turnout for countywide elections?

Most people living in Gwinnett are from some other part of the country or even the world and don't know or care whom their local elected officials are. Their elected officials know this and take full advantage of it with kickbacks on deals for swampland and the like.

ptm4936 had a very good point that in a county of 800,000 people only 100 people showed up for the meeting to demand accountability from elected and appointed officials that didn't even bother or care to appear.

14% voter turnout in a county of 800,000 and renewal of the E-SPLOST by a 21-point margin doesn't exactly strike fear in the hearts of elected officials.

Gotta give it to State Senators Unterman and Thompson, at least they showed up and seem to care while most every other elected and appointed state official seems to be in on planning how to implement the NEXT set of HOT lanes on I-85.

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Mack711 2 years, 5 months ago

Having attended the public meetings that announced this project and listening to the comments of those who attended. It seemed that we spoke to a bunch of officials that would not listen. It seemed that their minds were made up as to what will be done and nothing will stop them from making this a project move forward. As for the BOC at that time Bannister and Kernerly were on the BOC at that time. Please remember that this is a State and Federal issue not a county issue, So there fore they may not hav much to say about, any way we all know what happened to them. Low attendance was due to the fact that everyone knew that SRTA and GDOT would not be there to answer questions. To put it to you plain and sipple SRTA and GDOT do not care what you think since these departments seem to be unregulated. The current BOC has placed the T-SPLOST on the July ballot instead of the March ballot counting on another low turn out in order to pass T-SPLOST. If you want to stop or at least slow this down Go to the polls and stop, or atleast slow this down.

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Hangdog 2 years, 5 months ago

I really don't see how the Gwinnett BOC could have had any input in this and really don't see how it could possibly benefit any of them. This was SRTA and GDOT seeing the big federal grant and using it as a key to build their empire, especially at that SRTA level. No one to answer to, not even voters.

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R 2 years, 5 months ago

Has anyone determined out of the entire metro region how Gwinnett was just SO lucky to get the beta program?
What did Gwinnett DOT (or little gdot) get for Gwinnett’s involvement? Was the decision based on the traffic that CoolRay Field was supposed to produce? Or was it based on the 12 percent average voter turnout? Or are we to believe that our leaders are really THAT inept, after demonstrating they could swing 1 million dollar personal deals – public be damned?

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 5 months ago

The decision to make I-85 the first roadway in Georgia to get HOT lanes was made because at about just under 300,000 vehicles daily on average, the traffic volumes on I-85 from Spaghetti Junction to Steve Reynolds Blvd are higher than any other roadway in the state outside of the I-285 Perimeter, except maybe for I-75 Northwest through Cobb.

Gwinnett DOT didn't have anything to do with the decision as I-85 is a federally-funded roadway under the purview of the state who put in the two applications for the I-85 HOT lanes (the first application was rejected).

Also, Gwinnett is the second-largest county in the state with over 800,000 residents so the population density on one of the busiest roads on the continent (I think that I-85 through Gwinnett is like the 7th or 8th busiest stretch of road on the entire North American continent).

Figure in the fact that the state is planning two commuter rail lines that will run parallel to I-85 & 29/316 and the HOT lane looks to be a both a way to force a change commuting patterns (so that commuters will use roads closer to where they live, like Buford Hwy & P.I.B. to the west and Hwys 29 & 78 to the east & south as opposed to driving over to I-85 to get to the city) and a run-through on how to implement future HOT lane projects more smoothly (see the links I provided above for more detail).

By backing up traffic and making I-85 a less attractive commuting option with the first of what will be many more HOT lanes in Metro Atlanta, commuters are being forced to take surface roads closer to where they live into the city, which is being done purposely so as to make the future, express bus, bus rapid transit, heavy rail and commuter rail lines seem much more attrative for commuters to use.

The HOT lanes are being used as sort of a way of socially engineer traffic patterns and change commuting behaviors to create a market for the transit lines that are coming.

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R 2 years, 5 months ago

"except maybe for I-75 Northwest through Cobb" So again, just what did they "do right" to avoid the beta program?

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 5 months ago

Cobb hasn't done anything right to avoid the beta program, they just didn't have an existing HOV lane available to convert to a HOT lane as the existing HOV lane on I-75 Northwest ends just inside the Perimeter. Also figuring into everything is the fact that the Port of Savannah, which is already the second-busiest export facility in the Americas, is getting ready to undergo a MASSIVE expansion over the two decades that will likely TRIPLE the amount of truck freight traffic using that stretch of I-75 (between the I-16/I-475 Junction in Macon and the I-24 Jct in Chattanooga). The massive increase in truck freight traffic means that any new HOT lanes on I-75 would have to be added as opposed to being converted from existing free general-purpose lanes.

While I-85 in Gwinnett doesn't carry as much truck freight (or holiday) traffic as I-75 through Cobb does, Gwinnett basically got the HOT lanes first because I-85 has more overall traffic (about 297,000 vehicles/day average) than Cobb does (about 280,000 vehicles/day avg.).

Gwinnett was also much more conducive to a social engineering project like the HOT lanes because, despite having a larger bloc of Republican voters, those voters are not anywhere nearly as organized or as historically outspoken as the Republican voters in Cobb have been known to be over the years with their well-known tilt towards ultraconservatism. Also, the political community in Gwinnett is reflective of a much more transient community (more people from other states and nations who are not all that politically active) while the political community in Cobb is much more established and organized and not as transient as the one in more populous Gwinnett is. In other words, the state didn't consider Gwinnett to be anywhere near as politically sensitive as they might consider Cobb to be for a social engineering project like the conversion of an existing HOV lane to a HOT lane.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 5 months ago

Make no mistake. The HOT lanes on I-85 are NOT a traffic experiment, but are a social engineering project that is a run-through for an even larger social engineering project that includes making traffic in the remaining general purpose lanes so bad that it'll make commuters feel as though they have no choice but to take mass transit by instituting an even larger regionwide network of HOT lanes all over the Atlanta Region.

There have been "informal" discussions of converting as many as three lanes to HOT lanes on some stretches of Interstate in Metro Atlanta as a means of strongly "motivating" and even "compelling" motorists to use future mass transit lines.

The state (SRTA & GDOT) knew exactly what they were doing by removing the two-person carpools from the HOV lanes and pushing that traffic into the general purpose lanes and even onto surrounding surface streets off of the Interstate. Temporarily lowering the prices of the tolls on the lanes after the initial public outcry was just a move made so that they would look like they would pretend to kind of care when they really don't.

Click on the links that I provided above and observe the planned regionwide network of HOT lanes on all major sections of Metro Atlanta freeways except I-85 Southwest outside of I-285 and then notice how all of the planned rail mass transit lines run parallel to all of the Interstates spokes that run into the city. The tolls are not even about attempting to make a profit, the tolls are about forcing local drivers onto surface major surface routes closer to where they live so that they will avoid the even worse traffic on I-85 and will want to use the commuter rail and heavy rail transit lines that parallel I-85 when they come online in the future.

In a slight contrast, the added couple of HOT lanes in the Northwest Corridor in Cobb will be about pulling local traffic off of the roadway to make room for the massive increase in truck freight traffic that will come with the expansion of the Port of Savannah starting in 2014, truck freight traffic that will increase exponentially in the subsequent two decades after the deepening of the Panama Canal.

Both approaches are about compelling local commuters to take mass transit as it becomes available in susequent years so that the North Georgia development community can make more money off of increased commercial and residential development on future rail lines by creating more Northeastern-style population density along those lines by building few, if any, new free lanes on Metro Atlanta freeways and forcing people out of their cars.

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Hangdog 2 years, 5 months ago

@ACC12_SEC13Booster Did you speak at the "Town Hall Meeting" at the Gwinnett Justice Center?

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Mack711 2 years, 5 months ago

These guys have a lot of knowledge as well as common sense. They have a lot of information that make for good reading and possible plan for the future. Seems that SRTA wants to all of us to use mass transit and out of our cars or pay their price. Well folks Mass transit is not here unless you count Gwinnett transit system that goes no where a lot of us work. ACC 12 thanks for your postings.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 5 months ago

Thank you for reading my postings and keeping them in consideration for planning your next move.

The state isn't trying to make people use Gwinnett County Transit, they are creating a market for future transit expansion by making traffic so bad in the present that people will be demanding to use the transit that they may not have wanted to use before (the transit that they didn't want to use as in MARTA).

The state has plans to takeover and overhaul MARTA before the end of the decade so that it "serves" five counties as opposed to just the current two (Gwinnett, Cobb, and Clayton in addition to Fulton and DeKalb) so as to have transit available that they can compel commuters to ride by HOT-laning all of the major freeways.

One should also keep-in-mind that the HOT lanes themselves are not being created to clear lanes for average Joes and working stiffs, but are being created to clear lanes for the wealthiest domestic and international investors. They are "Lexus Lanes" in every sense of the word and then some as their primary purpose is to have at least a couple of lanes in each direction free of traffic for very wealthy investors and venture capitalists to travel in.

There is a definite ring of truth when people say that the lanes were cleared because rich peoples' time is viewed as being more valuable than the middle class as the HOT lanes are a way of entertaining the rich. Think about it, one of the main complaints of executives visiting Atlanta as a possible relocation or expansion site for their business is that the traffic in Metro Atlanta is horrible. Start clearing out lanes of traffic by putting tolls on them and business executives and investors don't think that traffic is so bad for them personally when they visit Atlanta even though traffic is still bad for everyone stuck in the worse traffic in the remaining general purpose who can't and/or won't cough up the tolls to ride in the HOT lanes, who prices are slated to go back up after this temporary respite.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 5 months ago

Sorry, but I did not speak at the meeting and was not able to attend because I was out of town. But even for those who did attend and speak at the meeting, it's not enough to speak at meetings or even to call and correspond with your state representative or state senator because except for Untermann and Thompson, everybody else in state government, including Governor Deal, seems to be in on this. Though, in addition to continuing to raise sand with your state officials, state representatives and state senators, it couldn't hurt to also raise a little [heck] with your federal officials (U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss and U.S. Representatives Rob Woodall and Hank Johnson) since I-85 is an Interstate Highway and these HOT lanes are a federally-funded project.

For those who don't know how to contact their federal senators and congressmen here's a link to a page with that contact information:

http://www.gwinnettcounty.com/portal/gwinnett/Departments/Elections/ElectedOfficials/FederalOffices

And here's also a link to page with contact information for your local state senators and representatives as well:

http://www.gwinnettcounty.com/portal/gwinnett/Departments/Elections/ElectedOfficials/StateOffices

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Mack711 2 years, 5 months ago

We have contacted our US Senators and US Reprensentive. All referred me to State and Local officials. As we know the local officials , with the exceptions of Sen Thompson and Unterman, have not listened to any of the comments. Espically Brooks Coleman he is about impossible to get in touch with. Many outside of Gwinnett, espically from out of state. are saying what is this all about? We look like fools to other states.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 4 months ago

They're likely not very cooperative because they're all in on the act, Senator Unterman stated as much. The State Legislature knows what is going on, they're just using SRTA to do their dirty work (putting tolls on existing lanes and creating a market for mass transit in the suburbs and exurbs outside of the Perimeter) for them.

Unfortunately people in places like the Northeast, Illinois, Texas and Florida know all too well what we are talking about as tolls are a way of life in those places, especially in Florida where on many roads there may be a toll booth on every on and off ramp.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 5 months ago

The only hope of stopping these lanes is to keep up the pressure on your state and federal representatives and hold their feet to the fire the best that you can. I don't discourage it, but just calling and badgering the offices of SRTA isn't going to get anywhere as they've clearly got an ideological agenda to manipulate, spin (and outright lie) about the numbers to make the HOT lanes on I-85 appear to be a smashing success no matter how much they may realistically appear to be otherwise.

The passage and renewal of local E-SPLOSTs across the 10-county Atlanta Regional Commission area back on Election Day sent the message to the backers of both the state's HOT lane concept and the regional T-SPLOST that the anger over taxation was not as deeply rooted as they originally thought as they were expecting a huge backlash against the I-85 HOT lanes and the pending T-SPLOST referendum was expected in the form of a defeat, or at least a very strong showing, of the E-SPLOST in Gwinnett.

The next best chance (and possibly last chance) to stop the spread of HOT lanes across the Atlanta Region and reverse the I-85 HOT lane is to defeat the T-SPLOST in 2012. If the T-SPLOST passes next year then it will be "all systems go" and a literally green light for the HOT lane concept all across North Georgia as much of the revenues from the T-SPLOST will be used to fund the construction of additional HOT lanes, especially in Gwinnett and Cobb.

The state is secretly planning to raid part of Cobb County's $1.2 billion in T-SPLOST revenues to pay part of the $1.2 billion cost of constructing the next HOT lane project in Metro Atlanta on the I-75/575 Northwest Corridor through Cobb as there is a vaguely-worded $695 million placeholder for "extensive premium bus service" between Acworth and Midtown on the Cobb County T-SPLOST list with no defined roadway, right-of-way or exact corridor.

In Gwinnett, an additional HOT lane converted from an existing free general purpose lane in each direction on I-85 could likely be funded with a $95 million placeholder a vaguely-worded "I-85 North Transit Corridor Study" on the Gwinnett County T-SPLOST list.

With these vaguely-worded multimillion-dollar placeholders on the T-SPLOST list, anyone who tells you that the HOT lanes and T-SPLOST are not connected are either easily misled, totally uninformed, not being straight up with you or are a frightening combination of all three.

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kmsimpson 2 years, 4 months ago

Looking at the various maps, diagrams, and studies that ACC12_SEC13Booster posted, as usual, it seems they completely missed the point of a large portion of the traffic. We need the outer corridor. I wonder how much of the traffic they are so worried about would be lifted if we simply had an outside corridor.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 4 months ago

After the Democrats were kicked out of power in 2002 for supporting it and Governor Sonny Perdue effectively killed it shortly after taking office in 2003, the Outer Perimeter is a political impossibility that may more than likely never be built. Especially the Northern Arc portion of the road as it was Cherokee and Forsyth Counties that refused to preserve the proposed right-of-way of the road and blocked the road from being built through the upscale country club communities full of politically influential high-powered lawyers that the project was routed through, no matter how effective it may be at removing truck traffic from metro freeways.

As a result of the overwhelming unpopularity of the Outer Perimeter/Northern Arc concept with the public, the only portion that is slated for construction is within Gwinnett County where the right-of-way of the erstwhile proposed road was kept clear of development and is being used for the construction of the extension of Sugarloaf Parkway from 316 up to Peachtree Industrial Boulevard.

The impossibility of an Outer Perimeter loop ever being built is the reason why Metro Atlanta will very much likely end up being an extremely transit-heavy town (think Chicago, Toronto or Washington DC) over the long term as the wholesale rejection of the Outer Perimeter by the voters a decade ago combined with a very limited surface road network and a forthcoming massive increase in the amount of truck freight traffic on the freeways (due to the pending massive expansion of the Port of Savannah which is already the second-busiest export facility in the Americas) has left this town with few other options.

The Outer Perimeter may be a deader than dead concept, but you are very correct that it sure would come in handy in helping to take some of the massive interstate truck and car traffic off of the local portion of the freeways.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 4 months ago

Here's a link to an article titled "Poll shows HOT lanes despised by public" provided by the guys over at stolenlanes.org that shows just how unpopular the HOT Lanes are with Georgia voters and motorists:

http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/poll-shows-hot-lanes-despised-public/nFmBr/#comments

From the article:

“ATLANTA — It’s clear new toll lanes on Interstate 85 are not popular with some drivers, but a new InsiderAdvantage/Channel 2 Action News poll puts them in a historic place alongside the Northern Arc and the last Georgia state flag……”

“The poll asked registered voters in metro Atlanta, “If you are aware of the I-85 HOT lanes what are your opinions?” A staggering low 4 percent said the lanes are effective. Twenty-eight percent said the lanes are not effective, and 45 percent said the lanes are making traffic worse. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent…..”

“”This is the most hated concept probably ever created in the history of government. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said InsiderAdvantage CEO Matt Towery……”

“”It says they need to take those lanes and immediately eliminate them,” Towery told Channel 2 political reporter Lori Geary……”

“Drivers using the interstate daily told Geary the toll lanes have done nothing but make their travels worse……”

“Towery said he doesn’t think the toll lanes will hurt Gov. Nathan Deal who took office with the toll lane construction well under way, but he told Geary the new toll lanes will make it extremely difficult to pass a penny sales tax for transportation that voters will be asked to vote on next year……”

“”They are building nothing but bad will in a year that they’re trying to pass a transportation SPLOST. You can’t build bad will and also at the same time ask people to vote for an increase in taxes,” Towery said…….”

“”It’s a total disaster. Without doubt one of the biggest blunders in the history of Georgia politics since I’ve been covering it,” Towery said.”

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