Tolls now charged in I-85 express lanes

New system launched at midnight



NORCROSS — Overnight, Gwinnett’s express lanes became toll lanes, bringing to metro Atlanta a managed lane system that some believe will change transportation for the region.

“Relief on (Interstate) 85 begins today,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said Friday during a press conference launching the new system, which covers 16 miles from Old Peachtree Road to Chamblee-Tucker Road. “Everyone is going to know we are serious about solving traffic problems.”

Over the past year, crews have worked to add technology, cameras and cables to convert the carpool lanes to high-occupancy toll lanes. Carpoolers, if they have at least three people in the car, can still travel in the lane for free, but now the lane is open to single-occupant cars, which make up 90 percent of the traffic, if drivers are willing to pay the price.

Officials hope to create a reliable trip time, increasing the toll from 10 cents a mile to up to 90 cents a mile when traffic gets heavier. Gena Evans of the State Road and Tollway Authority said it could take months of data to know if it works.

“This provides a transportation advantage to people in that corridor who are willing to pay for that advantage,” she said.

As of Friday morning, nearly 73,000 transponders have been issued for drivers interested in using the lanes. The Peach Pass call center will be open through the weekend to respond to questions. For information, call 855-PCH-PASS or go to www.peachpass.com.

While fines have been established for people who cross the double white lines and who drive in the lane without a Peach Pass, Evans said SRTA would have a “grace period” to allow drivers to get used to the new system. The length of the grace period is unknown.