LAWRENCEVILLE -- In 22 years of elected office, Sen. Renee Unterman has never gotten so many calls from incensed constituents.
But even the senator is frustrated and worried she has no where to turn to solve the traffic nightmare that became worse when toll lanes opened on Interstate 85 earlier this month.
Unterman was livid when the State Road and Tollway Authority canceled a meeting to discuss the controversial lanes last week. She said officials said they wanted to wait until the project had been in place for three months, but a SRTA spokeswoman said the organization thought a representative from the Georgia Department of Transportation would answer Unterman's questions.
"We are the people's voice," Unterman said of legislators. "I'm not going to sit back and do nothing."
She said officials cited a toll project in Fort Lauderdale where the traffic snarls and upheaval were settled in three months, but Unterman said that if the problems persist into the new year, she will spend every day at the Senate well speaking out.
"The cars out here are sitting. We're already in this mess," Unterman said, adding that her commute from Buford to Atlanta has grown from an hour to an hour and a half -- and she is using the toll lanes. "I understand the anger and frustration."
The economic worries are creating even more pressure, she said, on people worried that a traffic delay could mean they lose their job.
On top of the usual complaints about traffic and tolls, Unterman said her constituents have complained about Peach Pass customer service hours and rude interaction. Plus, she said, people in the community are very intelligent and educated, but officials are not answering their questions or making information available.
She praised Gov. Nathan Deal for stepping in, but even the elected officials have had little sway in the project.
"We all know that if it fails and this is tainted that future projects are in danger. It has huge consequences," she said of next year's regional sales tax vote. "The voters are not going to approve a future transportation vote, and I don't blame them."
Planning an Oct. 24 town hall meeting with other northern Gwinnett elected officials, Unterman has asked SRTA officials to participate to hear from upset citizens. But SRTA's spokeswoman Malika Wilkins said officials have another obligation and may not be able to attend.
Unterman says she will listen, even if others won't. The event is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Northview Church in Buford.