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Unterman vows to speak out on HOT lanes

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.

Comments

ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 2 months ago

"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."

Sure, they did....

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 2 months ago

""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."

Don't just spend everyday at the Senate "speaking out"......Unterman needs to use her power as a State Senator to create legislation to make these idiotic HOT lanes and the resulting traffic jams from hell go away for good.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 2 months ago

"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."

Sure, they do....That's pretty much SRTA's way of saying "We don't give a rats a** about what you people have to say while we hideout in a bunker of our own making".

With the behavior that the SRTA people have exhibited in the midst of a traffic disaster of their own creation it would be completely out of "character" for them to have the guts to stop cowering under their desks with their phones turned off and come out and see firsthand the havoc that they've wreaked on peoples' lives.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 2 months ago

""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."

So very true, but who would expect a bunch of highly-paid bureaucrats who have jobs for life and live in a bubble and have used their power to create their very own lane on one of the continent's busiest highways to sympathize with and understand the economic and financial plight of the people who they are in theory supposed to be serving?

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 2 months ago

"She praised Gov. Nathan Deal for stepping in, but even the elected officials have had little sway in the project."

In other words, the idiotic and self-serving bureaucrats who created this mess by making traffic on I-85 worse are accountable to and have no one higher up to fear who can rein them in. If the idiots at SRTA and GDOT don't fear powerful legislators or the Governor, then they sure as heck don't fear the people that they are supposed to be serving, a concept which the deranged bureaucrats at SRTA and GDOT seem to think is the other way around.

"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."

That statement pretty much sums everything up as who in the world would vote to pay higher taxes for MORE bureaucrat-induced gridlock.

I can see voters in other parts of the region like Cobb, Cherokee, Henry, North Fulton, etc, falling over themselves to rush to the polls to vote themselves a tax increase so that they can experience the same type of increased misery on their commutes that Gwinnett drivers are experiencing.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 2 months ago

The best thing that a person in Senator Unterman's position can do is to push the state to invest in high-frequency luxury liner commuter rail service on the Norfolk Southern/Amtrak rail line that parallels Interstate 85 between Atlanta and Gainesville and on the CSX/"Brain-Train" rail line that parallels Highways 29-8 and 316 between Atlanta and Athens.

High-frequency luxury liner commuter rail service will help to pull local traffic off of I-85, Hwy 316 and Hwy 29-8 (traffic made much worse with the implementation of the HOT lanes on I-85 by the idiots at SRTA) and will help to give commuters an alternative to battling heavy local and interstate traffic on I-85 to get to the Perimeter and the city day-in and day-out.

Put high-frequency luxury liner commuter rail service on these two existing rail lines that run through the county and pay for its construction with bonds sold to investors paid back over a period of 20-40 years with fares, user fees and advertising revenues, NOT taxes.

You don't need to use taxes to pay for commuter rail service as the service can pay for itself at the FAREBOX.

You can also run heavy luxury liner commuter bus service on I-85, Hwy 29-8 and Hwy 316 until service on the commuter rail lines is ready to go and use the fares from the increased commuter bus service to help pay for the construction, operations and maintenance of the commuter rail service and save the tax revenues to pay for improvements to the roads that can't and SHOULDN'T be collecting tolls and fares.

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sbrown4886 3 years, 2 months ago

Another government blounder, and again the people of America have to pay for it. It will take months before the gov. will do something and meanwhile we suffer. Wait till we vote again......we need to get the wrong people out of office and get someone that knows what's going on.,

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NewsReader 3 years, 2 months ago

Hahahaha, kudos to Sentor Unterman. Malika Wilkins, the SRTA's ineffective mouthpiece has another obligation? Please, go to your other obligation! First, we'll utilize this government masterpiece to vote down this ridiculous Regional Transportation Tax initiative, and then we'll do everything in our power to rid ourselves of this ridiculously stupid HOT lane you shoved down our throats. Or vice versa - makes very little difference.

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MissDaisyCook 3 years, 2 months ago

If you don't like 'um, don't use 'um. I have my PeachPass and no problems. I use the HOT lanes when I need to and hope they stay as they are.

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Braveshopr 3 years, 2 months ago

My commute was from the Old Peachtree entrance, ending at Pleasant Hill. It takes 20 minutes longer! Now I have to take the back roads instead - I and many other motorists. I say that because in all the times I have ever used the back roads I haven't seen as many cars also using those back roads. What a mess. It still takes an extra 20 minutes to get to work - the only difference is the gridlock and the extra gas I have to use.

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Bob30043 3 years, 2 months ago

High-frequency luxury train service is a pipedream. No businesses are going to develop a passenger rail because there is no way to make a profit. Look at all the money Amtrack makes every year, oops I meant loses every year. If mass transit is soo profitable why does Atlanta have to prop up MARTA? And why does the proposed TSPLOST include funds to operate Marta? Government is the only way for rail development and that means taxpayer support for a money losing entity - forever.

Charlotte's light rail only services 3% of commuters, and of the riders two-thirds reported they didn't own a car. So how much congestion improvement is removing 1% of the cars off the road? Try none.

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CD 3 years, 2 months ago

Where was the Republican Delegation BEFORE this new tax was imposed? Where? This is noting but a tax upon a tax. This is one of the most cynical grabs the Republicans have yet to come up with. I can't wait until the answer they propose is to privatize our new toll road. We can then, hopefully, select from a "menu" of "toll marketers" offering rates that will fill the coffers of some gluttonous Wall Street wonder.

Where's the Republicans? Oh, visiting Brett at his lakehouse while discussing the newest gift, Briscoe Field! How about "toll-free days" on such monumental occasions as Bannister's birthday, Kenerly's indictment anniversary, and of course a yet-to-be-enacted Beaudreau Day for Gwinnett. Unterman, go crawl back under your rock. Although I realize you were just elected, you're nothing but more of the same.

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HonestIngine 3 years, 1 month ago

The Republican Delegation is no longer Republican. They are no longer holding the views of the Republican party. Look in Peachtree Corners, Tom Rice, Fran Millar, Lannette Howard, Wayne Knox,are all pushing Cityhood, more government, more taxes, more spending... They used the Republican platform to gain the votes, get elected for their own pockets... At least with the Independent and Democrat platform you know where your stand....

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LilburnLady 3 years, 2 months ago

The complete and utter failure created by the HOT Lane on I-85, I predict, may single-handedly kill the T-SPLOST referendum when it comes up for a vote. I'm happy to pay taxes for road construction, but it has got to be construction that is needed and is actually going to ease congestion. Personally, I think the fiasco that is the HOT Lanes is not going to "clear up" nor are the commuters "confused". The reason that DOT wants to wait three months before discussing changes is because they figure that's the amount of time we will refuse to use the lane and finally cave in because we can't take sitting in the increased congestion anymore. How could anyone think that removing a lane from I-85 would improve traffic? Sorry DOT, but you don't get my vote until you start listening to the commuters who travel these roads each day and design roads accordingly. We are not algorythms, we are not statistics, we are not vehicles, we are people, with families and jobs, we pay taxes and we vote!

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Braveshopr 3 years, 2 months ago

"Let them eat cake", eh, Miss Daisy?

And thank you, Acc12, you said what most of us are thinking.

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Mack711 3 years, 2 months ago

@ACC12_SEC13Booster When Marta first was a thought Norfolk Southeren, back then Southern Railroad told the MATA board that they could build and operate this plan cheaper and had all that was needed to do the projec (track rail cars experience ETC.t. Well the government said no thank you we will build it our selves. Now you see the mess that we now have with MARTA. It was up unitl the 1950's or so that there was regular rail passenger service between Atlanta and Gainsville with many stops that are now on the MARTA line. .MARTA follows the NS railroad and the CSX lines.Government then as now knows how to do it better than private business, they have unlimeted resourses to draw from.......YOUR WALLET!!

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Oliver 3 years, 2 months ago

I sure hope the DOT officials made lots of by money selling their patent to the DOT for this boondoggle. I'm sure other states DOTs will now want to buy it as well. It's just a shame that the citizens of Gwinnett are the ones really paying the price.

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jack 3 years, 2 months ago

Yes, Rene. How about checking into the link between Jannine Miller, Randall Guensler, et alia, and the patents for the HOT lane technology.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 2 months ago

Bob30043 10 hours, 37 minutes ago

"If mass transit is soo profitable why does Atlanta have to prop up MARTA?"

The main problem with MARTA over the years has been that they have intentionally kept their fares too low to accommodate the poorest of potential riders in the very low income and the homeless instead of employing a higher fare-structure to keep service at top-notch levels to target and attract the middle-class, higher-end and more affluent riders and commuters that make up the vast majority of the drivers of the single-occupant vehicles causing the massive traffic jams that afflict Metro Atlanta.

The one-cent sales tax that Fulton and DeKalb pay to fund MARTA was only meant to be a BASE level of funding, NOT the sole source of funding as the interests that backed the creation of MARTA in the late 1960's originally wanted free bus and train service, but have instead elected to keep fares as close to free and/or keep fares as low as they can possibly can.

It's the misguided and incorrect belief amongst ITP transit supporters and even OTP transit detractors alike that transit fares have to be kept as low as possible to attract riders that keeps MARTA scraping along the bottom of the barrel while traffic continues to back up beyond creation.

"And why does the proposed TSPLOST include funds to operate Marta?"

Frankly the proposed TSPLOST is being used by Intowners as a back-door way to get suburbanites outside of Fulton and DeKalb Counties to fund MARTA (see the proposed light rail extensions to MARTA in Cobb and Gwinnett). The proposed light rail extension is actually a sneaky way to extend MARTA into Gwinnett as the powers-that-be plan to turn that light rail proposal into a heavy rail subway/elevated train line that will connect Downtown Atlanta with the Gwinnett Civic Center as they are fully aware that Gwinnettians would never approve a straight-up heavy rail extension from an agency as dysfunctional as MARTA into Gwinnett.

In actuality, taxes shouldn't necessarily have to be used to fund mass transit because buses and trains are capable of collecting operating expenses at the FAREBOX, unlike most roads which cannot collect fares and tolls for every single use outside of fuel taxes and sales taxes on gasoline.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 2 months ago

Bob3004311 hours, 14 minutes ago

"High-frequency luxury train service is a pipedream. No businesses are going to develop a passenger rail because there is no way to make a profit."

Passenger rail can be profitable if the FARE-structure (fares collected) and the resulting levels of service are high enough unlike MARTA which intentionally keeps it fares as low as possible so that the homeless and indigent can ride....basically by keeping their fares artificially low, they are targeting the homeless and indigent as their most desired riders instead of raising their fares to a higher level so that they can provide a much-higher level of service and attract a more profitable clientele. (The same ride that costs $2.50 on a MARTA train or bus costs as much as $11.00 one-way on a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) bus or train in the San Francisco area)

"Look at all the money Amtrack makes every year, oops I meant loses every year."

Amtrak loses money because they provide service in areas outside of the Northeast Corridor and Great Lakes Regions where there isn't as much, if any demand. Amtrak, unlike the airlines or automobile dealers, also doesn't do much of anything to attract higher-end clientele and more profitable customers like affluent and business travelers. If Amtrak and other mass transit operations operated more like businesses after higher-end paying customers with first-class and business-class seating, then they might fair a little better.

"If mass transit is soo profitable why does Atlanta have to prop up MARTA?"

MARTA would like to be propped up by Atlanta, but Atlanta (Fulton/DeKalb Counties and the state) don't prop up MARTA as the agency usually responds in kind to deep operating deficits by either eventually cutting service down to a level that it can pay for and/or eventually minimally raising its fares to help cover its costs as the State of Georgia does NOT fund MARTA.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 2 months ago

Bob30043: "Charlotte's light rail only services 3% of commuters, and of the riders two-thirds reported they didn't own a car. So how much congestion improvement is removing 1% of the cars off the road? Try none."

Charlotte's light rail has the same problems as MARTA in that, at $1.75 one-way, they keep their fares too low in an effort to accommodate the homeless, the lowest of the low income and the indigent as Charlotte has had some safety issues at some its stations, ESPECIALLY in Uptown (Downtown Charlotte), but the light rail lines have also sparked lots of investment in places where there was not much, if any, interest from investors before the light rail lines came through, especially on the Southside, so it's been kind of a mixed blessing.

Also keep-in-mind that commuter rail is a completely different mode of rail transportation from MARTA-style heavy rail trains.

Commuter rail is sort of like a metropolitan express rail service designed to carry passengers and commuters over longer distances with fewer stops (regional movements between 10-100 miles).

MARTA-style heavy rail is like a local train service designed to carry passengers shorter distances through the core of metropolitan area with less distance between more stops (local movements between a 1/2 mile to no more than 15-20 miles).

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 2 months ago

Mack711:

Commuter rail on the CSX/Amtrak line between Atlanta & Gainesville and on the NS/Brain Train line between Atlanta & Athens would NOT be a MARTA project (the prevailing thought in political circles is that MARTA is nearing its end and is getting ready to be overhauled by the five-county core of the region and state into something else likely by the end of the decade).

Commuter rail on the CSX/Amtrak Atlanta-Gainesville lines and on the NS/Brain Train Atlanta-Athens lines would likely be run by a state/regional agency and at the very least be overseen by the state if said private operator can be found to run one or both of the lines.

In fact, your comments make a good point as the type of public-private partnership that the state is attempting to form to build and operate HOT lanes all over the Atlanta Region would very much likely work better with building and operating commuter rail lines that won't back up traffic when implemented.

(the I-85 HOT lane is but just a small preview of what the state has in mind for interstates and freeways all over North Georgia)

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 2 months ago

LilburnLady:

You hit the nail right-on-the-head as your comments frame the situation with the HOT lane debacle perfectly.

Taxpayers are going to take their anger out over these bureaucrat-induced traffic jams on the upcoming T-SPLOST referendum because why should people vote to raise their taxes to pay for projects that are going to make their commutes WORSE?

And if Governor Deal doesn't put an end to this debacle quickly, the taxpayers will take out their anger on him in the 2014 GOP Primary as Deal received more votes in the 2010 GOP Primary and General Elections from Gwinnett voters than from any other county in the state.

And how does Governor Deal repay those Gwinnett voters who supported his Gubernatorial Candidacy so heavily and made his administration possible?....By doubling and tripling their commutes and attempting to extort money from them to let them out of the congestion that has been made artificially worse by the state.

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OutofMoney 3 years, 2 months ago

I love the statement "if it fails". What is the old saying. I don't know it correctly but. if "if" and "buts" were nuts and honey we would have Christmas everyday. Does this seem like Christmas to you?

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theroguefoodie 3 years, 2 months ago

I Agree with ACC12_SEC comment

"Mack711:

Commuter rail on the CSX/Amtrak line between Atlanta & Gainesville and on the NS/Brain Train line between Atlanta & Athens would NOT be a MARTA project (the prevailing thought in political circles is that MARTA is nearing its end and is getting ready to be overhauled by the five-county core of the region and state into something else likely by the end of the decade).

Commuter rail on the CSX/Amtrak Atlanta-Gainesville lines and on the NS/Brain Train Atlanta-Athens lines would likely be run by a state/regional agency and at the very least be overseen by the state if said private operator can be found to run one or both of the lines.

In fact, your comments make a good point as the type of public-private partnership that the state is attempting to form to build and operate HOT lanes all over the Atlanta Region would very much likely work better with building and operating commuter rail lines that won't back up traffic when implemented.

(the I-85 HOT lane is but just a small preview of what the state has in mind for interstates and freeways all over North Georgia) "

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joeshere 3 years, 2 months ago

I have a name for these new lanes : It's not HOT, It's not HOV....it's TCL. These are actually Traffic Compression Lanes (TCL). They compress 99.999% of the traffic into the other lanes.

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Braveshopr 3 years, 2 months ago

Theroguefoodie said: "(the I-85 HOT lane is but just a small preview of what the state has in mind for interstates and freeways all over North Georgia) "

That's a downright scary thought!

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Mack711 3 years, 2 months ago

therguefoodie Having been involved in the New Georgia railroad back in the 80's that ran some trains from Atl to Athens for Georgia Football games and other cities around the state. It saved time and the problems of parking in Athens. This was a state funded agency and in co-operation with CSX who owns the tracks. This program was elimnated due to state budget cuts. Many said that it was a great way to get to the Georgia games. Most took MARTA to underground Atlanta and boarded the train there. No parking problems and no traffic problems. We should seek a private company to operate this system and get the state our of this business. NS could operate between ATl and Gainsville and CSX could operate between ATl and athens. MARTA follows these railroads both north and soutn as well as east and west. froget Amtrack it is government owned and will never make a profit. NS and CSX problably never get involved today due to government regulations.

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Hangdog 3 years, 2 months ago

@LilburnLady. Well said. SRTA just wants to sweep all the complaints under the rug and hope the sheep will just give up. And I too think this puts the nail in the coffin of T-SPLOST. I've written numerous letters and e-mails and made phone calls to a lot of people involved in this and have yet to get back a single response.

I'm still amazed that Gena Evans can be fired from Ga Dot, then gets an Executive Director spot with SRTA. At least she hasn't been spewing her nonsense lately. I'm guessing someone at SRTA or the Governor's office told her to just keep her mouth shut.

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Linda 3 years, 2 months ago

The HOT lane idea is big government at its best People in government are amazing because they never seem to listen to the people who pay them, the TAXPAYERS!! I would bet if you asked any I-85 commuters about the HOT lanes before the decision was made, they would have said what a stupid idea. Short term solution as to how to spend money from the federal goverment, any time you get in bed with the federal government you get screwed royally.

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tgrip 3 years, 2 months ago

Light rail in Denver, CO is a joke. The people who live there joke about it. Rail in the suburbs of ATL running into and out of ATL? You think that is going to fly in Gwinnett County? What planet are you living on? I will pay for a HOT lane, but you want me to pay more money to ride a "luxary train"? LOL... that is the funniest thing I have read all week. :)

I have news for you people. The HOT lanes are staying. Know why? I have had my peach pass for 2 weeks now. Guess what? The lane is starting to fill up, you know why? It's improved my commute by 15 minutes, maybe more when there has been a wreck on I-85. The peach passes are going out like mad and people are using the lane. That means that money is going in the pockets of our lovely federal government. The government is making money, I promise you its not coming out. People said the same thing about the toll booths on 400. Do they still have toll booths on 400? Hmmmm... Get used to it. The state can get on the stump and proclaim what ever they want to... they are getting money and thats all they care about.

I care about not sitting in bumper to bumper traffic. The HOT lane has been nice. So don't too many of you go out there and start enjoying it! Stay over there to the right!!!

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Hangdog 3 years, 2 months ago

@tgrip, that is exactly what the folks at SRTA and Ga Dot want. I have been a car pooler since the lanes went in. We probably ride together 4 days a week and though we still car pool and each bought Peach Passes in case of an emergency, we refuse to use the thing. I'm not paying a penny for a lane that was already in use. If they had installed a true, dedicated HOV Toll Road (inbound in the AM; outbound in the PM) it would be a totally different matter, but to take away one lane and then force the tax payer to pay for its use? Not me; and I'm hoping that most will continue to refuse to be held hostage by the idiots at Ga Dot and SRTA.

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snellvillemike 3 years, 2 months ago

Senator Unterman,

Nice of you to get involved after the fact. Where were you when the meetings were held by GDOT and transportation officials were arrogant and rude. They just did not want to listen to constituents. TCL (Traffic Compression Lanes) this is good. I like TCL.

Boycott the HOT and Deal and the Repubs as well as the Dems better start listening, because we are going to show the politicians our power at the ballot box.

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Hangdog 3 years, 2 months ago

Let Ms. Evans know how you feel. She won't respond to we underlings, but let her know how you feel.

Gena L. Evans, Ph.D. Executive Director & Board Secretary gevans@georgiatolls.com

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 2 months ago

Braveshopr5 hours, 37 minutes ago

"Theroguefoodie said: "(the I-85 HOT lane is but just a small preview of what the state has in mind for interstates and freeways all over North Georgia) "......That's a downright scary thought!"

Yes it is a VERY SCARY thought as the I-85 HOT lane is just a demo for a $16 BILLION network that the state wants to put in on every major interstate and freeway in the Atlanta Region.

Basically the state wants to convert all existing HOV-2 lanes to HOT/HOV-3 lanes and add HOT lanes to every major freeway running in and out of the city.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 2 months ago

tgrip4 hours, 12 minutes ago

"Light rail in Denver, CO is a joke. The people who live there joke about it."

Light rail is a joke in Denver because of the continual cost overruns and the lies that the politicians out there have told to the public in regards to understating the cost and time of construction just to get the voters to keep approving continuous tax increases in the name of building out the system.

Commuter rail does not really need tax increases to pay for it as the rail lines can be constructed and operated in the same way that toll roads are, by selling bonds to investors and paying back the bonds with revenues from fares over a period of 20-40 years.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 2 months ago

tgrip4 hours, 21 minutes ago

"Light rail in Denver, CO is a joke. The people who live there joke about it"

How ironic that you speak of Denver, because the current population of the ENTIRE Denver Region (2.9 million) is almost the exact number of people that the Atlanta Region has added in the past 20 or so years. Yes, the population of the Atlanta Region has doubled from 2.9 million people in 1990 to 5.8 million in 2010, yet the region is still trying to get by with what is basically the same transportation infrastructure it had in 1990 when it had half the population of today.

In the same time frame, the population of Gwinnett County alone has more than doubled, growing by close to 130 PERCENT from just over 350,000 in 1990 to over 805,000 in 2010 becoming the second most populous county in the Atlanta Region and the entire state of Georgia.

The explosive population growth that the Gwinnett County has experienced means that it is not the quaint exurban community that was once far removed from the ills of the urban core of Atlanta as Gwinnett basically has grown to become part of the urban core of Atlanta.

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toby 3 years, 2 months ago

How many gubmint officials get a free peach pass to use these lanes?

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 2 months ago

"Rail in the suburbs of ATL running into and out of ATL? You think that is going to fly in Gwinnett County? What planet are you living on? I will pay for a HOT lane, but you want me to pay more money to ride a "luxary train"? LOL... that is the funniest thing I have read all week. :)"

With the very explosive (and volatile) population growth that the Atlanta Region, especially Gwinnett County and the I-85 Northeast Corridor, has seen in the last 20 years it's not as if we have a choice about embracing commuter rail anymore as the freeway system is almost completely built-out and there doesn't seem to be much of a political appetite to go on a (much-needed) roadbuilding binge and the state's disasterous HOT lane debacle has likely made the building of future toll roads pretty much politically off-limits.

With a large roadbuilding solution politically off-limits, that pretty much only leaves bus and rail transit as a viable solution to deal with this increasing traffic mess as you can't add what is equivalent to the entire population of Denver to the population of Atlanta in a relatively short period of time and expect to still be able to easily get around without delay.

Just like in other metro areas with populations over five million and limited road infrastructures, people in Gwinnett and throughout the Atlanta Region will absolutely jump at the opportunity to not have to sit in endless and paralysing traffic jams especially on really bad traffic days when the weather is bad or delays are higher than usual and especially if the service is clean, dependable and safe, unlike the current road network which which is in severe need of some upgrades of its own.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 2 months ago

toby17 minutes ago

"How many gubmint officials get a free peach pass to use these lanes?"

More than likely, pretty much ALL OF THEM at the state level and maybe even at the local level as this lane looks to be another special privilege that they took the liberty of using their power to create for themselves.

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kevin 3 years, 2 months ago

Why is she waiting until after the project is in operation to start complaining? She knew it was coming for years. She should be looking at doing an audit or and ethic investigation on the Insurance Dept. We are tired of the "automatic" huge premium increases this dept is giving to all these companies. I checked into a # of states and saw where many had indicted more than one of their commissioners. Maybe Georgia should be doing the same before it is too late. There is very little transparancy in that Dept.

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crobin7028 3 years, 1 month ago

Does anyone really need another reason to vote no for the TSPLOST? There will be no accountability.

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plantlady 3 years, 1 month ago

Multiple meetings were held to get public opinion before accepting the federal grant money fot the HOT lanes. I went and protested against them. Where were the rest of you, including Unterman? We the people could have stopped HOT lanes, but only a handful of people came to the meetings. Not enough to object. The GDOT put on a very fancy presentation of the HOT lanes. But, if one were to ask enough questions, you would find out that the HOT lanes are designed to guarantee buses travel at minimum 45MPH during peak times. This is achieved by forcing other drivers out of the lanes. And remember when gas went to $4 a gallon a few years ago, Gwinnett county ran out and bought a bunch of buses (which we all know noone rides).

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jack 3 years, 1 month ago

plantlady- I also attended the dog-and-pony shows presented by the GDOT. I can assure you nothing could have been said or done to prevent the implementation of the HOT lanes. That decision was made far in advance of the public opinion hearings. They were nothing more than window dressing to give the illusion of inclusion into the decision-making process.

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Mack711 3 years, 1 month ago

Jack, Like you and plantlady we attended the meeting and also found that this was a dog and pony show. Got the impression that their minds were made up and they were moving forward with their plan regardless of what the public. It seemed that they wanted to create jobs for themselves and did not have any interest in what we the public wanted. Just wait until HOT LANE 2 is approved and all Atlanta has HOT lanes. That is their goal.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 1 month ago

Mack 711, jack and plantlady-

You are very correct. The state had their minds made up far in advance of the meetings that they held to get so-called "public input" into their plans. You are also very correct that the state's goal is to put HOT lanes on every freeway in the Atlanta Region as their plan is to spend $16 BILLION to build a regionwide network of HOT lanes in North Georgia.

The only problem(s) are that Governor Deal himself is not too crazy about the concept of charging tolls on existing lanes and angering voters in a county in Gwinnett and section of the state in the I-85 Northeast Corridor where most of his votes came from in the 2010 elections and the base of his support lies. If 2014 rolls around and most of the people who put the Governor into office in Gwinnett, Hall, Jackson and Barrow Counties are still stuck in traffic while looking at an empty HOT lane during rush hours then Deal likely does not even make it through the 2014 GOP Gubernatorial Primary, much less to re-election in the General Election.

A second problem is that the state has no idea where the money for the $16 BILLION buildout of the HOT lane network will come from at this point. On the next planned installation of HOT lanes on Interstates 75 & 575 in Cobb and Cherokee Counties, just the $300 million public portion of the $1BILLION public-private project alone is more than the state entire roadbuilding and maintenance budget.

Another problem is that how can the state justify spending so much money on a very politically-unpopular concept like HOT lanes that will have little, if no impact on traffic congestion on the roadways that the lanes are supposed to be serving.

Also troublesome is how the state could justify getting into contractual obligations with private partners that will severely limit the amount of transportation improvements that can be made to parallel road and possibly even rail corridors so that commuters will have few transportation choices beyond taking roadways with high-priced HOT lanes.

When the public gets wind of all of the details of the HOT lanes concept, how they are designed to maintain and even INCREASE traffic congestion so use of the lanes will be the only market option, this already increasingly politically-unpopular concept will be a political goner, just like the Outer Perimeter and the Northern Arc became political goners before it.

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NewsReader 3 years, 1 month ago

ACC12_SEC13Booster, you seem to be well versed on this subject. Would you mind posting a brief synopsis of how this HOT lane came to be? I'd like to see a chronological breakdown from proposal to implementation and what parties were involved along the way including politicians, government agencies, and individuals, etc. As for the one who stated "they are here to stay", please, will the last person out of Gwinnett County turn out the lights? As far as straws go, I'm down to the last one. You better sell out now and move, for a decade from now, you won't be able to afford to move. And it's not just this foolishness, but it's the Gwinnett Braves Stadium, the Richard Beaton Ferris Wheel Hotel, The Sugarloaf Parkway Extensions, and Parks & Recreation Land deals, and on and on and on. When you reach my age, you simply don't have the time or patience for it anymore. You might see a Peach Pass on my car, but if I'm using the HOT lane, it's because I have a party of three or more and I'm doing so for free (well, except for the money extorted from me for the privilege of having a Peach Pass).

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Hangdog 3 years, 1 month ago

@ACC12_SEC13Booster, thanks so much for your input on this. And like Newsreader, I've just about had it with our 'leadership'. My wife and I, not far from retirement, have changed our minds about remaining in Gwinnett County after we retire. I'm tired of the constant tax increases by the people who just continue to insult my intelligence.

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Mack711 3 years, 1 month ago

Just heard on the radio where there will be a meeting with Miss Unterman tonight in Buford. She will be taking questions and listening to complaints on this HOT lane issue. Bet the GA DOT does not show up. This may be another dog and pony show. Will be interesting. GA DOT has invested too much money in this project to let it go, and they know it. They think that we will go away in about 3 months anddrivers will put up the $$$ to use this lane.Now they also know if Gov. Deal is granted the waiver for 2 person carpool that we will be back to where we were,minus $100 million + in taxpayer money. No one will come out ahead in this issue but one thing is certain we lost a lot of taxpayer dollars in this mess.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 1 month ago

NewsReader-

"ACC12_SEC13Booster, you seem to be well versed on this subject. Would you mind posting a brief synopsis of how this HOT lane came to be? I'd like to see a chronological breakdown from proposal to implementation and what parties were involved along the way including politicians, government agencies, and individuals, etc."

NewsReader: I know a little bit about this subject, but by no means am I an expert on it.

What I do know is that some people who work for the state (Jannine Miller of the State Road and Tollway Authority is a name that keeps coming up as she was personally openly going around and claiming credit for the idea right after the lanes opened on I-85 before the extent of the public's intense anger was fully realized) had patents for the sensing technology that is used in the HOT lane setup and are set to make a lot of money if that particular technology is used on a large scale in the Atlanta Region.

Other than that, the reason why the HOT lane concept has come about in Georgia is a desire by some in "transportation planning" at the state level to cheaply copycat an idea that is found in limited quantities in three other states (CA, TX and FL), an idea that isn't necessarily all that popular in the areas in which the HOT lanes already exist.

The current HOT lane on I-85 was funded by a grant approved in November 2008 by the Bush Administration who was really big on the idea of charging tolls on carpool lanes and congestion pricing (variable tolls on existing free lanes that rise and fall with congestion). In addition to the current governor, Nathan Deal, not being all that hot on the idea of charging tolls on existing free lanes, the Obama Administration isn't too hot on the idea of HOT lanes as they are mainly enamored (and obsessed) with high-speed rail. (The state's application for a grant to fund the HOT lanes was actually rejected twice before finally being approved in late '08.)

Though, I suspect that the Obama Administration might have let the HOT lane project on I-85 proceed despite their reservations because the lanes run through and an area dominated by Republican politicians in Gwinnett and largely conservative Northeast Georgia. That most of the motorists sitting in the longer traffic jams caused by the HOT lanes vote Republican might explain why the incoming Obama Administration did not stop the project funded by the outgoing Bush Administration.

As for why Governor Deal let the project proceed at the state level is a big mystery seeing as though he is the one politician with the most to lose by intensely angering motorists and voters in an area that overwhelmingly went for him in the last Gubernatorial election.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 1 month ago

NewsReader-

Another reason we are seeing the advent of HOT lanes in Georgia is because of the Georgia Department of Transportation is in a bit of disarray right now. GDOT is caught in a little bit of a transition and a pull, push and tug between those who want more of a multimodal approach to Georgia's mobility issues and those who only know how to respond to congestion and mobility issues like they did in the old days by widening roads.

The only thing is that solutions that involve building lots of roads in the auto-crazed and auto-dependent Atlanta Region are not necessarily all that popular with the public, especially since they seem to concentrate all of the public's monetary resources on one mode of transportation at the great expense of others.

Like the multiple billions-of-dollars that the state has proposed to spend over the years on a scant few road projects that only seem to increase the type of post-suburban sprawl and congestion that close-in counties like Cobb and Gwinnett are struggling with after years of overdevelopment. Projects like the erstwhile Outer Perimeter, the Northern Arc (a scaled down Outer Perimeter), the East Atlanta tolled tunnels and now the HOT lanes are indicative of the types of road-only responses to a wide-scale mobility problem that requires a multimodal response that the state has come up with through GDOT and now SRTA over the years.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 1 month ago

The problem that the Atlanta Region has with congested freeways has come about because the state and region has not upgraded its surface road network to keep up with the explosive population growth over the last three decades. Combine that undersized and underdeveloped surface road network with no viable transit options especially in the form of commuter rail and the state's historical "hands-off" approach to transportation planning and management and the current extreme overdependency on the freeway system is the result.

Even the Washington DC Region, a region that is by all accounts a "transit-dependent" region with a comprehensive heavy rail-anchored local transit system (Metro) and commuter rail network with extensive reach into surrounding Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, has a surface road network that is much more developed and built-out than the auto-dependent Atlanta Region which has a severely-limited transit network serving its urban core (MARTA), a severely-limited road network and no commuter rail.

People still seem to think that commuter rail is an option, but in a metro area that has grown by over 100 PERCENT is the last 20 years, doubling from 2.9 million in 1990 to 5.8 million in 2011 with basically the same road infrastructure that it struggled with when it had half the population twenty years ago, commuter rail is NOT an option.

What's even more puzzling is that the state owns freight rail corridors like the CSX line through Central Gwinnett and the Norfolk Southern line through Western and Northern Gwinnett and has alot more leeway to implement commuter rail service on those freight rail corridors than the public perceives. The state even has the plans for a regional commuter rail network mapped out on multiple pages on its website, but here we are looking at a flawed and misguided HOT lane on I-85 and facing a completely unfunded $16 billion regional network of HOT lanes.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 1 month ago

Mack711-

This particular project was officially spearheaded by the State Road and Tollway Authority which former Governor Sonny Perdue used as a way for the Governor's office to get around having to send all transportation decisions and projects through the largely-dysfunctional Georgia Department of Transportation, hence his appointment of former GDOT Commissioner Gina Evans as Executive Director of SRTA.

I agree with you that no one from the state agency in charge of this "project" will be anywhere to be seen as SRTA representatives have probably taken up residence in the WITLESS Protection Program and GDOT reps are too busy putting the finishing touches on their own HOT lane disaster to the tune of $1 billion on Interstates 75 and 575 in Cobb and Cherokee Counties.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 1 month ago

Mack711-

I hope that I'm wrong, but I'm not quite sure that the Feds will grant a waiver to Governor Deal to allow two-person carpools back in the lane for free. From what I've been hearing the Feds are not open to the idea claiming that the HOT lane concept only works when carpools or three or more passengers are allowed in the lane for free.

Although I suspect that the Obama Administration's obsession with passenger rail and the fact the the HOT lanes are backing up traffic in a politically-conservative geographical area populated heavily by Republican voters who didn't vote for Obama in the last election and won't vote for him in the next election might come into play. To some in state government and many in the Obama Administration, using the HOT lanes to backup traffic on I-85 in a heavily-populated transportation corridor of the Atlanta Region forces commuters to want more rail and bus options.

It's pretty much a fact that Governor Deal wants the Feds to grant that waiver to allow free two-person carpools back in the lane because this debacle has worsened traffic in a politically-sensitive geographical area that Deal needs to win re-election to a second term as more people voted for Deal in Gwinnett and Northeast Georgia than in any other part of the state. Deal got more votes in Gwinnett County alone than in any other county in the state, so it's to Governor Deal's political benefit to get this debacle over with as soon as possible, but the Obama Administration knows this and is likely to use this to Democrats' political advantage to help foment discord within Georgia GOP ranks as there have been rumblings from other Republicans, especially from those in North Fulton and the I-75/575 Cobb-Cherokee-Paulding Northwest Metro Corridor where Karen Handel carried the vote in the 2010 GOP Primary, about bringing a challenge to Deal in 2014 even before he took office.

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JohnGalt 3 years, 1 month ago

Hey folks, rumor has it that the good Senator will be holding a town hall meeting at Northview Church at the corner of Gravel Springs Road (GA HWY 324) and Braselton Highway (GA HWY 124) tonight at 7:00. This facility is right on the corner directly behind Walgreens and across from the Dacula Kroger. I would encourage every one of you to make this an absolute spectacle by showing up and creating as much of a traffic mess there tonight as they do on a daily basis on I-85.

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