LAWRENCEVILLE -- Three times as many drivers are using the express lanes on Interstate 85 four weeks after tolls began.
Each week since the Oct. 1 opening, the lanes have reached a new record, proving for now the expectations of officials of an increase in usage.
More than 10,000 drivers used the lanes Thursday -- a huge jump from the 1,041 on the opening day and the 3,217 from the first weekday.
"We've definitely been focused on improving express lanes usage through a variety of ways and the results we are seeing are in line with those efforts," said State Road and Tollway Authority spokeswoman Malika Reed Wilkins.
After a public outcry in the opening week, Gov. Nathan Deal called for a reduction in the tolls, and SRTA's rate were cut nearly in half.
The average toll paid Thursday was $1 compared to a high of $2.35 charged Oct. 4. The highest amount charged for the entire 16-mile stretch from Old Peachtree Road to Chamblee-Tucker Road was $1.95 during both the morning and afternoon rush hours Thursday.
While Deal has also called for a new access point and a waiver from the federal government to allow two-person carpools free access to the lanes, those changes have not yet been implemented.
At a town hall meeting Monday, interim Transportation Commissioner Gerald Ross said officials had expected it to take time for people to get used to the system. That increase was evident in four cities that had implemented HOT lanes in the past.
"As time went on, people got used to it, it started to settle out," he said of traffic in the other cities. "The data is just going in and it's going to take some time."