LAWRENCEVILLE -- Federal officials have rejected the call for free access to HOT lanes for carpoolers.
But Gov. Nathan Deal, who pushed for the change in the first week of the toll on Interstate 85 last month, is continuing the drive, said spokeswomen.
"The HOT lane has only been operating for a brief period, and we believe it is too early to evaluate its effectiveness at this time," wrote Jeffrey Lindley, associate administrator for operations for the Federal Highway Administration, in a letter to state officials.
Lindley pointed to a toll project in Miami where the usage increased after "fine tuning."
"There are many factors that could be contributing to the under utilization, including the time it takes to form a three-person carpool, market penetration of transponders, toll rates and user unfamiliarity with the concept and benefits," Lindley said, adding that his staffers will help identify and implement strategies.
On Oct. 1, the state converted 16 miles of high-occupancy vehicle lanes in Gwinnett and DeKalb to high-occupancy toll lanes, angering two-member carpoolers who had free access to the lanes for a decade by limiting free access to three-plus person carpools.
Malika Wilkins of the State Road and Tollway Authority said the organization, along with the Georgia Department of Transportation, is currently working to provide statistics to federal officials to make a case for the change.
On Nov. 4, SRTA Director Gena Evans and GDOT Commissioner Keith Golden wrote a letter to Lindley asking him to reconsider.
State officials are also working on the governor's request to add another access point to the toll lanes between Old Peachtree Road and Beaver Ruin, Wilkins said. Deal said the toll lane usage could be impaired because there is no access in that five-mile stretch in the southbound lanes.
Last month, SRTA officials took immediate action on the governor's biggest quibble with the system, cutting tolls in half just days after they began.
Toll lane usage has increase steadily since the change, eclipsing 10,000 vehicles a day.