Transition begins to HOT lanes on I-85

ATLANTA -- The countdown has begun for tolls to be charged on Interstate 85 in Gwinnett.

In less than two weeks, the decade of high-occupancy vehicle lanes will end and the day of the Peach Pass will begin.

"The opening of the I-85 express lanes will represent a new era in transportation innovation," said Gena L. Evans, executive director of the State Road and Tollway Authority, which is in charge of the implementation. "This all-electronic commuting choice gives registered Peach Pass customers access to a more reliable travel option in the I-85 corridor. The express lanes concept has been proven successful in eight other cities, and we are excited about its ability to positively impact I-85 traffic and keep metro Atlantans moving."

People are preparing for the Oct. 1 opening date of the managed lane system, which is contingent on weather and other concerns. Drivers are signing up for the Peach Pass, while transportation crews are putting the last minute touches on the signs and testing the system.

But during the testing, where toll amounts will at times be posted on signs along the 16-mile corridor from Old Peachtree Road to Chamblee-Tucker Road, people won't be charged.

In the meantime, people should follow the normal HOV rules, where cars with two people inside can use the lane.

Sign changes began Friday and are expected to take 10 days. In all, six crews will be making 128 changes to 105 signs along the corridor. They will remove the HOV pavement markings and install new express lane ones. The work requires nightly lane closures from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. on I-85. Pacing will occur on Ga. Highway 316 westbound.

"During the sign transition, motorists have the opportunity to get more familiar with these new regulatory signs prior to the launch of the express lanes," said Georgia DOT chief engineer Gerald Ross. "Motorist should also note that the existing High Occupancy Vehicle lanes will continue in operation, allowing vehicles with 2 or more people, motorcycles and alternate fuel vehicles to use the lanes until the express lane system are open on Oct. 1."

For a complete guide to the high-occupancy toll lanes, see today's Community section, page 1C.


The opening of the new high-occupancy toll lanes along Interstate 85 brings the concept of managed lanes to Georgia for the first time.

The pricing changes based on the amount of congestion along the corridor, from 10 cents per mile when traffic is clear to 90 cents a mile to get out of a bumper-to-bumper situation.

It’s meant to keep the HOT lane clearer during the high traffic times because fewer people would be willing to pay the steep toll.

But rest assured, officials say. If you enter the HOT lanes when the signs advertise a 20 cents per mile rate, but traffic increases and the rate goes up to 50 cents a mile, you will be charged the original rate.

According to a study, officials expect the average trip length to be between 6 and 7 miles, with typical toll prices ranging from 60 cents to $6, depending on the congestion. More than 90 percent of customers will pay less that $5 for their trip, including about 25 percent who will not pay the toll at all, as carpoolers.


Whether you pay the toll or not, every vehicle must have a Peach Pass.

The new transponder, that also works for Ga. 400 tolls, is a small tag that must be placed in the center of your windshield, below the rearview mirror.

The tag is picked up by technology along the HOT lanes that automatically deducts money from your account for the toll.

An account can be set up online at www.peachpass.com or by calling 1-855-PCH-PASS. On the website, people can alert the toll authority they plan to carpool, but the status must be changed at least 20 minutes prior to using the lane.

The pass costs $20, which is then applied to the account and can be used for the first toll payments.

The State Road and Tollway Authority opened a customer service center at 47 Trinity Ave. in Atlanta, where customers can set up and manage accounts in person.


Since high-occupancy vehicle lanes were set up on I-85 in the late ’90s, carpoolers, buses, motorcyclists and alternative fuel vehicles (which do not include hybrids) have been able to use the lanes for free.

That won’t change with the new managed lanes system, although the carpool threshold has increased.

Instead of being allowed access with two people in a car, the lanes are only free to carpools with three or more occupants.

For people who have been carpooling but need a third rider to make the trip free, the Clean Air Campaign is working to match people. Go to CleanAirCampaign.org or call 1-877-CLEANAIR for help.

Even if you are carpooling, you still have to have a Peach Pass and set your account to show you are exempt.


One of the biggest changes to I-85’s far left lane comes in the access. Not only is the DOT reducing the breaks in the double white lane that make it legal to pass into and out of the lanes, but when the managed lane system is activated, people could face some extra fines for crossing it illegally.

With the HOT lanes intended to help people travelling longer distances on I-85, drivers who are trying to get to certain exits in Gwinnett should be aware where they can leave the lanes, so they don’t miss their exit off the interstate.

In the 16 miles between Old Peachtree Road and Chamblee-Tucker Road, there will be six access points to the HOT lanes. Signs along the highway indicate when the next break will come, but crossing over the double white lines early can cause a $25 fine.


The technology along I-85 can detect violators in the new managed lanes. It can tell when a car doesn’t have a Peach Pass or when people cross the double white lines to enter a lane.

Citations will be sent in the mail to the registered owner of violating vehicles, seeking a $25 fine plus the cost of the toll. If a patrolman pulls you over for setting your Peach Pass for a free ride when you do not have the needed passengers or for crossing the double white lines, the fine is $75.

Tickets can be disputed. For more information, go to www.peachpass.com.


In its first full year of the express lanes operations, officials expect to generate up to $3.9 million. (That number was calculated when officials expected an Aug. 1 opening, so it may no longer match up.)

Unlike the Ga. 400 tolls, which went to pay back bonds used to fund the construction of an extension, these revenues won’t go toward debts. Instead, all of the money will be earmarked for operations and maintenance of the express lanes.

According to Malika Reed Wilkins with the State Road and Tollway, the funds aren’t expected to exceed the needed operations funds for several years. Officials are working to determine how they would be used when they do.


I-85’s toll lanes are a pilot project that, if successful, will lead to managed lanes across metro Atlanta.

DOT officials have already moved forward on a public-private partnership that could bring the technology to I-75 north of the city, and a plan shows potential for nearly all of the northside interstates.


jcwalk2 3 years, 11 months ago

I take the express bus from Discover Mills to Buckhead. The reduced HOT lane entrances will now cause the bus to have to drive the clogged lanes of 85S all the way to Beaver Ruin in the heart of the congestion before being able to entering the wonderful new HOT lane. I'm looking forward to the double commute time! Thanks DOT once again!


cwkimbro 3 years, 11 months ago

Don't be so quick to assume the worst. They actually planned the access points with the xpress buses in mind. There is an access point just south of every exist for an xpress buss. There is one just south of Indian Trail, there is one just south of Sugarloaf and the first access point to the north is just south of where several xpress buses get on the interstate. If anything you are one of the main beneficiaries of the changes, since this will help insure express buses can keep moving no matter what.


taytay52 3 years, 11 months ago

No there isn't. From Sugarloaf, where the Express Buses get on I-85 there is no entrance to the HOT lane until Beaver Ruin. I ride a vanpool from Discover Mills and there is not an entrance until Beaver Ruin. AND, the Gwinnett Express buses have been informed to take sufrace roads to get to Beaver Ruin. That will certainly help the length of time of a commute on the bus. (Sarcasm)


taytay52 3 years, 11 months ago

It is crazy. I ride a vanpool and it makes NO Sense to remove the exit at Pleasant Hill.


snellvillemike 3 years, 11 months ago

This HOT lane idea is incredible. The politicians seem to think that they are smarter than the masses. We paid taxes for the road to be built and used and now we have to pay another fee to use the road when we were already using the road. Where is the outrage? Peach Pass Upfront fee is $20 and then 10 to 90 cents per mile to use the road. And you have to have three people in the car for a supposedly free ride instead of the two in a car. Well, you can register for the free ride and pay the $20 for the transponder. This stuff is almost as poorly thought of as the garbage pickup plan in the county. They screwed up the garbage so much, the elected government had to settle with the injured companies so that they can collect up front the fees and the fees are more than what was originally charged. Well, I was using the HOV lanes with two people and no fees. Why change? Someone who is not producing anything is getting something from those using the HOT. Another bureaucratic layer. Great.


Mack711 3 years, 11 months ago

The masses should be outraged and most are. The only problem is that we do not know how to stop them. This road way has been paid for by all citizens and we should have access to the roadway as long as we obey the law.The garbage example is another plan that is not working, should be repealed. Look at it this way the HOT lanes will be closed when ever there is a bad accident blocking the highway. This is another form of tax and will not speed traffic through the area. What a waste of money.


hpytravlr 3 years, 11 months ago

The DOT is spending money to slow down traffic? I do not think that 1 cent sales tax is needed. I am voting NO.


cwkimbro 3 years, 11 months ago

I don't expect a whole lot of people to like the new HOT lane conversion, in fact when I first heard about it I was dead set against it. Afterall, it is a hard thing to stomach... adding a tax to an existing lane -and- there is no road widening! However, over time I have done some research on the concept and there is actually some validity to it. Believe it or not there is a reason it actually is designed to increase capacity of the roadway at peak moments of congestion, but it is hard to understand why at first.

Imagine you draw an imaginary line across all 6 lanes of traffic. At any given moment the 'capacity' of the road is how many cars can drive past that line in a certain period of time.

The problem with congestion isn't just that people can't move quickly, but the slower traffic goes....the fewer cars can pass that line! Fewer cars will pass that line at 10 mph than they will at 25 mpg or 45 mph. Congestion actually lowers the 'capacity' of the road.

The trick for engineers is to come up with a way one or more lanes can keep moving at an ideal speed to move as many cars past that line in a given time (45mph). More cars will pass that line in that line if cars can move consistently at 45 mph and not get forced into slowing down.

The problem is there isn't any good way to limit the number of cars into that lane that it keeps moving at 45 mph, but also allows in as many cars as possible with it moving at 45mph. The main tool they have to work with is variable tolling. Tolls that go up or down to influence more people to get in the lane.... or stay out of the lane.

Admittedly the tolls aren't popular and it certainly isn't equitable. Richer people will be able to benefit from them more often, but in the end with variable tolling the computer system engineers set up can insure at peak moments of congestion nothing slows down the maximum number of vehicles can -drive pass that imaginary line- in that one lane.

This lane is just a demonstration/trial, but if it works in the future we might be able to have an extra lane built and better on/off ramps between the regular travel lanes and the HOT lanes.

The extra added benefit is it helps express buses work well. Going into the future more people will want to use them, because they will go faster and make travel times more stable.


AsTrueOrTruer 3 years, 11 months ago

"In its first full year of the express lanes operations, officials expect to generate up to $3.9 million" Elsewhere in stories about HOT lanes it is stated that the work to convert to HOT lanes came from a $110 Million grant. A grant? A gift from whom, by whom? Where did that cash come from? Thin air?

Is it as true or truer that the "Grant" was borrowed money contributing to the National Debt? And we're hope to get "up to" 3.9M per year? How much of that will be eaten up with administrative costs? And all for lanes that are already there!

HOT lanes will not reduce traffic or improve traffic flow or improve air quality It is simply a way to suck more money from us serfs.

We live in a Kleptocracy. We are being stolen from by every branch of government. Local, county, state, and Federal.

It is all crashing down around our ears. Just look around you and see the destruction...

We have already PAID for these lanes. Open them up to everybody! Everybody paid for them!

The Daily Post is simply an arm of the Gwinnett County Government. A cheerleader. Never any hard-hitting investigative stories showing the corruption and waste in county government.

The list of projects that waste our precious funds are numerous:

Cool Ray Field The Aquatic Center - What is the county doing in the water park business. Millions lost on garbage collection contract mismanagement.

Parks and stupid soccer fields. Every person entering a Park should pay a fee. Let those that use the resources pay for them! How to create a park in Gwinnett? Easy. Take woodlands; mow them down nice and flat; put up lights for soccer. Voila! a park! A park that less than 5% of citizens will actually use, and fewer tax payers!

And don't get me started on the Board of Education that can't build palatial schools fast enough, yet our graduates can't speak, write, or think properly. They exit school with no preparation for the real world, no grasp of history, no idea where the shift key is on a keyboard, no idea how to balance a checkbook or look for a job. I live in a modest home yet I pay almost $2K for school taxes. It is mismanagement and theft pure and simple. And I haven't gotten one thank-you note from the ignorant graduates!

How to save a boat-load of cash in schools? Eliminate bus service! I resent paying for the "free education entitlement," but I really hate having to pay to get students to school. Your kid rides the bus? Pay up! Or drive him there yourself!

American Baby-Boomers are a pathetic lot who think that they can improve some people's lives with other people's money.

Well we're sick of it!


Mack711 3 years, 11 months ago

You said it all and there is no more to add. Take a look at Duluth Dog Park that is opening today. What a waste of money!!! Get a fenced in back yard and put Fido in it that ia all Fido needs. Use that money to pay for other needed things like pot holes in the street.


OedipusTax 3 years, 11 months ago

You can bet "Gena L. Evans, executive director of the State Road and Tollway Authority." along with other privileged bureaucrats, will ride for free regardless of what the signs say. Other pampered privileged bureaucrats will too. This new lane represents a new form of politcal perks, mainly, for the politically connected, and will mainly function to get bureaucrats a free ride in their new cars, which are also probably financed by the taxpayer through cheap loans.


R 3 years, 11 months ago

A new “lawyer billable” in the Metro area!!


dsu 3 years, 11 months ago

I don't drive these lanes so I really have not much say about this. This seems to me the stupidist idea ever. I don't see how this is beneficial to anyone without exit and entrance ramps for hov. There is no way this makes money or solves problems. Money pit.


OedipusTax 3 years, 11 months ago

The new 316 interchange was built, in large part, to eliminate the hazardous entrance of 316 entering I-85 southbound on the left, such that people were killed trying to get off on Pleasant Hill. They had to cross over 5 lanes of traffic from left to right. Something like 150 million was spent to correct this hazard. Now, however, we have "Gena L. Evans, executive director of the State Road and Tollway Authority," who has designed a system that creates this hazard five new times each way on 85 in Gwinnett.

How many people have to die before the system is disassembled because it is too dangerous to operate?

Our public transportation fat cat bureaucrats spent 110 million to create a problem 10 times worse that existed 10 years ago, before their 150 million new 85/316 interchange. Only government bureaucrats can spend 110 million more to create a section of Interstate to be far more dangerous than it was before. We've paid for a HOT lane that mainly public bureaucrats can ride in and have the taxpayer pay their way as a business expense. How much of that 3.9 million will actually be paid by private citizens that aren't reimbursed by the taxpayer? We might as well have taken 260 million dollars and burned it on the lawn of the State Capitol.


R 3 years, 11 months ago

So in summary, by setting up a lane so fees are charged and paid by as few as 5 percent of the population - the road’s overall efficiency will increase by 5 percent, based on the TOTAL number of vehicles that pass a given point at a given point in time? This of course gets posted in all sorts of reports touting improvements making the GDOT look good. As to Bus access, since they are vehicles in state service, they could be allowed to enter the HOV lane at ANY point they could do safely – why make them use surface streets to find a dashed section? (i.e. emergency vehicles are exempt to the lane restrictions) That access “restriction” would rest solely on the rest of the private operators.

As to the lowly peons stuck in the GP lanes during peak tines, remember those high flyers have to CROSS the lanes to the right to get out!! There’s no law requiring you to make a space to let them cut in FRONT of YOU, they can fall in BEHIND your rear bumper just as easy. You'd be doing a service to your fellow comuters behind you too that have to wait longer for each and every "crossover".

What’s really interesting about this project is that essentially GA has taken a section of FEDERAL road and restricted it from use by residents of other states UNLESS they have a prepaid GA Peachpass. Surely the original bus lanes were built for Olympic traffic and GA didn’t pay for all of I-85 road improvements – the FEDs did. (Thank you Sam Nunn and friends) So unless out of state drivers can use it, HOW did this get done? I’m sure the question has been asked in other states where a similar two step occurred; I just haven’t seen the answer yet. So all knowing orbs out there, feel free to educate us!


Sorry_it_came_to_this 3 years, 11 months ago

Where were all you folks when they had the public hearings three years ago? Not with me, because I was there (with just a handfull of other people) speaking to the head of the state agency in charge of this debacle and telling him:

1) These lanes will only be affordable to the rich and those who have critical appointments they can't afford to miss. His reply to me: "Well, they do call them Lexus lanes in other cities." Gee, that's comforting. You create a ridiculously expensive toll in the middle of a recession. Sorry, I don't have a spare $2,000+ dollars to spend this year. The poor working schmucks will have to suffer.

2) This new toll lane will put more cars on the road because all the 2-person car pools have no incentive to car pool any more. I often ride in the HOV lane with another rider. Have you ever noticed how many of the cars have exactly two occupants? I would say at least 90+ percent. More cars, more pollution.

Then he told me: "It's not about the money, it's about traffic flow." I wanted to say "You are a liar", but I instead said, "Traffic flow will be worse." We'll see. We will see.

But anyway, where were all you concerned citizens during the public hearings? Like where are you citizens who should be fighting this financial disaster of an airport they are looking at for Briscoe Field? You are at home watching TV. My goodness, you can't miss the latest episode of NCIS. Something important might happen to Gibbs. Can't miss that.


ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 11 months ago

"Where were all you folks when they had the public hearings three years ago?"

We were all stuck in traffic on I-85...Just like the organizers of the "public" hearings had hoped for, to have as little public input as possible so that they could feel good about themselves after cooking up this horribly misguided $110 MILLION gridlock-worsening project.


Mack711 3 years, 11 months ago

We had a group there just like you. Our comments fell on deaf ears. They want public input but will not follow that input. Like so many things their minds were made up before the meeting began. The meeting was a dog and pony show andt that was it.


marysp 3 years, 11 months ago

I tried out the telephone number listed for help and guess what? It said for me to PRESS ONE for ENGLISH. I still don't know the number to call if I decide to ride on the HOT LANE with 3 people in my car. It is no where on the website. It should be in BOLD PRINT at the top.


Bruce 3 years, 11 months ago

As usual, Gwinnett will arbitrarily hold its constituents hostage then tout it as progress for the region. The design of the roads have failed so the designers charge money to overcome, and reward themselves with a toll. It's a good business if you can get into it.


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