LAWRENCEVILLE -- Sitting in traffic on Interstate 85, Victor Ramkissoon wasn't just hot. He was seething last week.
Sitting in the general purpose lanes while carpooling with his girlfriend, the pair listened to music and told jokes, trying to keep at bay the anger as they watched the occasional car zip down the express lanes. As carpoolers, they used to have access to the lane for free, but a week ago, the state's new toll system began.
And the traffic slowed.
"We used to be mad about traffic before, but now I miss (that pace)," the Snellville man said. "It was working before. To pay for something that was already working, I don't think that's right."
By the end of the week, the public disdain grew so much that Gov. Nathan Deal intervened, calling for lower tolls, more access and maybe even allowing two-person carpools free access, a week after the threshold was raised to cars with three people.
As of Thursday's evening commute, an algorithm that calculated the toll rate based on traffic in the general purpose lanes and in the express lanes was changed to only focus on the express lanes.
Instead of the average $5.50 charged for the 16-mile stretch from Old Peachtree Road to Chamblee-Tucker Road during the most congested parts of rush hour earlier in the week, on Thursday evening, the toll peaked at $3.05.
"Definitely, next week motorists will see the difference," the State Road and Tollway Authority's Malika Wilkins said.
On Friday, traffic in the general purpose lanes was much closer matched to the express lanes than earlier in the week, when drivers could go around 55 miles per hour in the express lanes but would crawl at an average speed of 30 miles per hour. On Friday morning, the average in the general purpose lane was 49 miles per hour, compared to 60 in the express lanes. But Wilkins said a school holiday for portions of the metro area contributed to the change.
It will take longer to resolve the access points and carpool question, said Jill Goldberg of the Georgia Department of Transportation.
She said officials began investigating more than a month ago an issue for I-85 South drivers who had to wait miles to enter the HOT lane.
There is a five-mile gap for people who get on the interstate around Sugarloaf Parkway before they can enter the lane at Beaver Ruin Road.
"I'm very happy and willing to pay," Kaurun Jain said of his trip Tuesday taking his wife and a friend to the airport. "Even with Sugarloaf Parkway, with all the people coming from the Gwinnett Arena ... there's no way to get in. ... It took me about 25 minutes to go from here to Beaver Ruin and another 25 minutes to the airport."
Goldberg said consultants have been investigating the best location for a new access point, and the results have not come back yet. After the analysis is done, officials will have an idea if construction is needed to add a new gantry for signs or if SRTA will have to order new tolling equipment.
"It's unknown what will be needed and what kind of undertaking it will be," Goldberg said. "If it is just a matter of striping that's one thing. ... It's too early to know."
She was also uncertain of the time it could take to request a waiver to a federal requirement that forces all new carpool lanes to be limited to three-person cars.
"It's an unusual situation," she said. "We're all working together to get it figured out."
As for the State Road and Tollway Authority, officials still expect the express lane usage to increase over time.
In fact, that was evident this week, as the number of registered cars in the lanes increased each day from Monday's total of 3,217 to Thursday's, 4,718,