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Public input sought on toll lane extension

LAWRENCEVILLE -- More toll lanes could be coming to Gwinnett, but this time a public comment period could actually change the discussion.

Feedback will begin with an open house March 21 on a proposal to extend express lanes along Interstate 85 -- adding 10 miles to the 16-mile stretch converted to high-occupancy toll lanes in October 2011.

But people frustrated that the first project was a done deal before the public spoke last time around can be assured that input will be involved in this project, Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Teri Pope said.

"There is a no-build option with this project," she said, contrasting it to the first funded by a federal grant. "We're coming out to the public to solicit their input."

The $95 million proposal also has a key difference from the current HOT lanes between Old Peachtree Road and Chamblee-Tucker Road, which were converted from carpool lanes. These express lanes would be along newly laid asphalt, adding another lane between Old Peachtree Road and Hamilton Mill Road.

"In essence, this would add one lane in each direction that people could choose to use for a more reliable trip time," Pope said.

This project, which includes a bridge at the interstate's juncture with I-985, would be funded by the state's gas tax, and tolls would go toward maintenance of the system, Pope added.

Malika Wilkins, a spokeswoman for the State Road and Tollway Authority, said a decision on toll prices has not been made, since the earliest construction could begin is summer 2014.

Pope did not give an appraisal of the controversial HOT lanes project, which is about 16 months into a two-year demonstration project.

But Wilkins said the lanes have become more popular since their rocky beginning.

"We are encouraged by the data trends we are seeing in the Express Lanes with the increased usage and Peach Pass issuance from month to month since opening in October 2011," she said. "More and more motorists are choosing to use the Express Lanes for a more reliable trip. We will continue to monitor the performance of the lanes."

Public hearings are scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday March 21 at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce in Duluth and Thursday, March 28 at the Braselton Police and Municipal Court Building.

If the project moves forward, Pope said another set of hearings will be held next year, and the lanes could open in 2017.

Comments

ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 7 months ago

What's with this obsession that the Georgia Department of Transportation has with HOT Lanes?

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R 1 year, 7 months ago

Why reach into your pocket only once and stop , if we can reach in several more times? That would be UN-american!

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 7 months ago

Another question is just how is the $95 million to build these lanes supposed to come from existing gas tax revenues when that existing gas tax is already overextended on routine road maintenance and construction needs on existing roads around the state and Governor Deal has already designated multiple years worth of existing state gas tax revenues to be spent on the I-75/I-575 NW HOT Lanes project and the reconstruction of the I-285 Top End/GA 400 North interchange?

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 7 months ago

The State of Georgia seems to be too foolish to figure out that GDOT's largely-unfunded HOT Lanes strategy for Metro Atlanta is playing right into the hands of the Federal Government whose real intent is to take these HOT Lane demonstrations and apply them to all lanes of the freeway system so as to push all local single and double-passenger vehicle traffic off of the freeway system and onto bus and rail transit lines as a way of clearing the Interstate system for increasingly-heavy through traffic (particularly increasingly-heavy freight truck traffic from the rapidly-expanding international seaport at Savannah that generate truck traffic on Interstates 75 South and Interstates 285 and 20 West and fast-growing seaports on the Gulf Coast that generate truck traffic on Interstate 85).

GDOT's HOT Lanes strategy is really just the beginning of a widespread system of congestion pricing and adjustable tolls on ALL LANES of Atlanta region freeways and Interstates.

The HOT Lane strategy that the State of Georgia has unwittingly embraced is really part of a long-term strategy to force Metro Atlantans and North Georgians onto transit lines that they would likely not take otherwise with adjustable tolls on ALL LANES of the freeway system that will range as high as $1.00-per-mile.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 7 months ago

The California State Route 91 Express lanes are but a very-small preview of what Metro Atlantans can expect on a much-larger scale in the future when attempting to use what are now still largely-untolled freeways with fewer than three occupants in their vehicle.

This is a link to the toll schedule for the California S.R. 91 Express Lanes. Take special note of the $9.55 one-way cost to use the eastbound toll lane on Friday afternoons between 3:00-4:00 p.m. and of the $9.10 one-way cost to use the eastbound toll lane on Friday afternoons between 4:00-5:00 p.m. http://www.91expresslanes.com/schedules.asp

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 7 months ago

If Metro Atlantans are not careful, they will likely find themselves unable to use the freeway lanes that they have already paid for with their tax dollars without paying much more in adjustable-rate tolls.

HOT Lanes are not to "provide a clear traffic lane" at all times as government officials claim, but are to force Metro Atlantans onto transit lines that they might not otherwise use over the long-term.

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R 1 year, 7 months ago

Point of clarification!

Commuters WON'T use unless mandated under law or excessive fee schedules.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 7 months ago

You hit the nail right on the head with the use of excessive fee schedules as a way to force people onto transit. Use of transit won't have to be mandated under law when it costs $25.00 one-way to drive on I-85 to the Perimeter and a relatively much-cheaper (but not really cheap at all) $10.00 one-way to take the train into the city.

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Gwinnettsince1991 1 year, 7 months ago

What the citizens of this state fail to comprehend is that we are on the path to becoming LA and Chicago with is massive corruption due to state agencies, such as the DOT diving for every dollar and making their cities unlivable for average citizens. Pretty soon we will be Detroit, but luckily I will be long gone from this cash grab. And that is all this is, a cash grab by a government program that is more interest in sustaining itself than what is in the best interest of the citizens.

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R 1 year, 7 months ago

We have the corruption, we just need to give everyone their very own fair share...

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 7 months ago

With the continued overdevelopment and its resulting effects of cheap housing, illegal immigration, overcrowding, etc, a cross between Los Angeles and Chicago is what Atlanta is likely to become as many political 'leaders' in Metro Atlanta have openly stated that they would like the region to be home to at least as many as 10 million people.

It's just that the real estate developers who run this town have turned away from spectulating and overdeveloping along the major roads in the metro area as they have done historically since World War II and now have their sights set on land spectulating and overdeveloping areas along and near the numerous major rail lines that criss-cross the metro area.

The major rail line right-of-ways that developers have their sights set on include the two major rail lines that run through Gwinnett County in the Norfolk Southern/Amtrak line that has been tabbed for commuter rail service between Atlanta and Gainesville and high-speed rail service between Atlanta and Charlotte that runs through the county west of I-85 through the cities of Norcross, Duluth, Suwanee, Sugar Hill & Buford and the CSX freight rail right-of-way that is the site of the future Brain Train passenger rail line between Atlanta and Athens that runs through Lilburn, Lawrenceville and Dacula in Gwinnett County.

The very-close proximity of the airport to the future Brain Train passenger rail line between Atlanta and Athens is why developers went totally bananas over trying to privatize, develop and expand Briscoe Field not too long ago.

The cities of Norcross, Duluth, Suwanee and Sugar Hill are also already developing and redeveloping their downtowns around future train station stops on the future Atlanta-Gainesville commuter rail line. There is a lot of land spectulation that is directly connected to and driving this continued expansion of the HOT lane network that the state is trying to portray as only being for "congestion reduction".

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R 1 year, 7 months ago

So since DOT will be extending the HOT Lanes past I-985, does this mean the lanes will be built as a NEW inside bridge over existing traffic at the I-985 merge north?

Or will the state change the exit configuration entirely and move the I-985 North spur exit to the far right lane and create an interchange?

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 7 months ago

R, the plans that I had seen and heard of in the past included moving the exit for I-985 North to the far right lane of I-85 Northbound and creating an interchange with collector-distributor lanes on the right so that vehicles from Lawrenceville-Suwanee Rd could merge directly onto I-985 Northbound from the right without crossing 3-4 lanes of heavy traffic to get over to the exit in the far-left 2 lanes (and vice-versa with traffic from I-985 Southbound being able to exit directly onto L'ville-Suwanee Rd without having to merge onto I-85 SB and traffic from I-85 SB being able to exit onto L'ville -Suwanee Rd without having to cross the traffic merging from I-985 SB).

But with the cost of this project only being $95 million (the cost of the more elaborate for a larger interchange being at least a couple-of-hundred million dollars or so), what is most likely is that the lanes will be built as a new inside bridge over existing traffic at the I-985 North split like you described, if the HOT lanes are ever expanded, which with as cash-strapped as the state's road construction budget is, is highly-doubtful at this point.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 7 months ago

With Governor Deal having already designated the I-285/GA 400 interchange as "the top transportation priority" in the entire state after the T-SPLOST debacle went down in flames and Governor Deal having already made an unfunded commitment to build an I-75/I-575 NW HOT Lane project that alone would require using multiple years of the state's ENTIRE road construction budget, something smells fishy with GDOT suddenly making presentations to extend the controversial I-85 HOT Lanes 10 miles to the north with no additional federal funding secured at present and several years of declining roadbuilding funds for the ENTIRE state already committed to major construction projects in the GA 400 corridor @ I-285 and in the I-75/I-575 NW Corridor and no additional gas tax revenues/roadbuilding funds forthcoming in the foreseeable future.

Could these presentations of as yet VERY-unfunded road expansion projects on major roads through on the northside of Metro Atlanta have anything to do with Governor Deal being up for re-election next year in 2014?

Could these presentations of proposed unfunded road expansion projects in Cobb and Cherokee (the I-75/I-575 NW HOT Lanes), North Fulton (the reconstruction & expansion of the GA 400/I-285 interchange and the opening of the emergency right shoulders to traffic on GA 400) and Gwinnett counties (expansion of I-85 HOT Lanes up to Hamilton Mill Rd) have anything to do with Governor Deal attempting to passify (or even pander) to conservative and moderate GOP voters in Cobb, Cherokee, North Fulton, Forsyth, Gwinnett, Hall and other Republican-dominated North Georgia counties so as to continue to fend-off a challenge from his right in the 2014 GOP Primary and assure re-election to a second-term in a 2014 General Election in which no Democrats have even shown any interest in running or challenging him?

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JohnGalt 1 year, 7 months ago

Seriously? The GDOT isn't interested in public input. If they were, we wouldn't have the HOT lanes we have now. I have asked this question before and still await an answer. Who is it that has the authority to do this without so much as a bonafide vote of the people who are impacted by it the most which are the citizens of Gwinnett County? They can showboat with this horse manure about public input all they want. At the end of the day, they have an initiative that has nothing to do with traffic and has everything to do with lining pockets.

And one last thing...within the next decade, vehicles will have the technology and ability to run completely on autopilot. That is, no driver necessary. It's a proven technology that has millions of miles of test data already. Why do we need public transportation systems that include rail and enormous expense that have huge restrictions on where passengers can be transported (like along the rail lines) when you can have transportation vehicles pick you up where you want to be picked up and deliver you where you want to be delivered? Why not utilize this as an opportunity to take our transportation to the next level, and expand on this technology that would be much more economical and efficient because it can easily capitalize on the existing roadways and infrastructure already in place and place Atlanta well ahead of the rest of the world on transportation? The reason is, there is no incentive on government employees to do or recommend any solution that will ultimately eliminate the need for their services as if they provide any useful services anyway.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 7 months ago

{{"Why do we need public transportation systems that include rail and enormous expense that have huge restrictions on where passengers can be transported (like along the rail lines) when you can have transportation vehicles pick you up where you want to be picked up and deliver you where you want to be delivered?"}}

Mr. Galt, this isn't about need, this about future land spectulation by real estate developers who are in the early stages of buying up land parcels for future development around the sites of proposed train stations in North Georgia. This is also about a long-term agenda by the Feds to dramatically and exponentially increase transit ridership by forcing Metro Atlantans off of the freeways with adjustable tolls (congestion pricing) and onto rail-anchored transit lines.

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jack 1 year, 7 months ago

"There is a no-build option with this project,"

Was the fiber optic/plastic pipe installation project along I-85 north of the Suwanee exit several months ago merely for cameras, or in anticipation of HOT?

"Pope did not give an appraisal of the controversial HOT lanes project, which is about 16 months into a two-year demonstration project."

But the fact that we are intending to expand the system means we have already declared it a success.

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Sandykin 1 year, 7 months ago

Will we ever see new freeway again? Seems like the only road improvements these days make a path straight to my wallet.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 7 months ago

Sandykin, after the public's rejection of the Northern Arc (Outer Perimeter) over a decade ago and the even bigger public rejection of the T-SPLOST, which included funding for the last section of the Sugarloaf Pkwy freeway extension from GA 316 through the Mall of Georgia area to P'tree Industrial Blvd., a road which was originally slated to be built, operated and funded as a toll road, the conversion of GA 316 from a surface road to a freeway with separated-grade intersections and interchanges will more than likely be the last new freeway ever built in the Atlanta region.

And even with GA 316 being upgraded from a high-speed surface road with dangerous at-grade intersections to a freeway, the chances are very-high that adjustable-rate tolled congestion pricing will eventually be implemented on GA 316 by the Feds because that major road feeds directly into one of the busiest roads on the entire planet in I-85 towards Atlanta.

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kevin 1 year, 7 months ago

If Federal money is involved, this new project is already a done deal, just like the other one. The DOT and others lied to us the first time about speaking up on this issue. Why would anyone believe them this time? We are just going to lose more of our already paid for freedoms on open interstates with this new project. Soon we will be having to pay for clean air. NO, NO, NO to another government takeover of our roads. "We have already paid for access to this interstate."

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 7 months ago

Unlike the first section of I-85 HOT Lanes between Chamblee-Tucker Rd in DeKalb and Old P'tree Rd in Gwinnett in which the State of Georgia received a $110 million federal grant which was originally denied by the Feds, Federal money does not seem to be involved in this proposed extension of the I-85 HOT Lanes at this point. This latest round of so-called public meetings seems to be nothing more than a dog-and-pony show to at-least make it appear as if the state is doing something about congestion in advance of a Gubernatorial election year in 2014 in a county and corridor that is critical to Governor Deal's re-election prospects in Gwinnett in the I-85 Northeast Corridor. Deal has done the same thing with the I-75/I-575 HOT Lanes in Cobb and GA 400 in regards to North Fulton that he is doing with the I-85 HOT Lanes in Gwinnett by appearing to move forward with road expansion proposals that are seemingly largely-unfunded at the moment. Also, with the continued expansion of traffic-generating seaports on the Gulf Coast and in Savannah, there is very-strong evidence that the I-85 HOT Lanes are not a demo project for a larger regionwide network of HOT Lanes, but rather are a demo project for a regionwide network of congestion pricing adjustable tolls on all lanes of Metro Atlanta freeways.

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LilburnsFuture 1 year, 7 months ago

Well said. I'll just add; if there is to be a toll road. Make it across the road. Yes, design it just the same as 400. The difference between 85 and 400 is that 400 flows. Everyone knows there is a toll. Not, this perception that only the top elite pay. The others 'pay for the HOT toll' in poor performance - guzzling gas while on a slow ride on the highway.

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JimmyOrr 1 year, 7 months ago

ACC12_SEC 13Booster, I cannot remember when you came on board so to speak with your well written and well thought out comments. Over the times I have been reading your "stuff," I wish there had been someway I could have printed your comments out invidually and filed them by category so I could use same for reference from time to time. In your comments today (Thursday) I took particular note to a paragraph that begins with: "It's just that the real estate developers who run this town." This is ture today, it was true yesterday, and it will continue to be true tomorrow. I would like to think that you were thinking what I was thinking and that is,"Isn't it about time we return the seat of county government from 6500 Sugarloaf Parkway back to 75 Langley Drive?" Just a thought. I may be absolutely wrong in my thinking. Keep up your excellent commentaries on articles of this nature. FYI, I will be attending the public hearing in Braselton on Thursday, March 28th.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 7 months ago

Thank you very much for your encouraging comments, Mr. Orr.

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Don_Coyote 1 year, 7 months ago

Please ask Ms. Wilkins how many times she is going to jump onto bandwagon marketing terms to label a program a success when it is not even meeting ongoing expenses much less construction/conversion costs.

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Mack711 1 year, 7 months ago

Yes but Wilkins and Evans are drawing a pay check from this venture. This program was a money pit from the start. It will never be paid for in tolls and has been proven so. Stop this plan now and scrap the HOT lanes.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 7 months ago

To the incompetent Georgia Department of Transportation, HOT lanes are a brilliant long-term transportation strategy, even though there is basically NO money to build them unless they are paid for with Federal grant money, like the I-85 HOT Lanes which were slated to be nothing more than a conceptual design on a drawing board at best until the Feds awarded the $110 million grant in late 2008 to the State of Georgia to build them. To the Feds, the current I-85 HOT Lanes are more than likely a run-through for a future regionwide system of adjustable rate-tolled congestion pricing on all Metro Atlanta freeways. The idiots at GDOT and SRTA have UNWITTINGLY (with an emphasis on "UNWITTINGLY") played directly into long-term Federal plans to impose congestion pricing on ALL LANES of the freeway system as a way of pushing what the Feds deem to be excess local traffic (1-2 occupant vehicles) off of the Interstates and onto future transit lines so that through traffic can flow through Metro Atlanta much less-impeded on the Interstates. The Feds have tabbed Metro Atlanta for widespread adjustable rate-tolled congestion pricing on all lanes of the freeway system because they have no confidence that a spectacularly incompetent State of Georgia will ever become organizationally functional enough to expand the roads to accommodate all of the increased truck traffic that is expected to flood North Georgia Interstates in coming years.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 7 months ago

Don_Coyote, this latest so-called public relations push for an extension of the I-85 HOT Lanes up to Hamilton Mill Rd. likely is not necessarily so much about labeling the HOT Lanes program a success on its own merit as much as it is labeling the program a success and appearing to expand it so as to appear to be doing something, anything, about traffic on I-85 so that Governor Deal can win favor with commuters (commuters who vote in elections) in Gwinnett, Hall and Jackson counties in the I-85 NE Corridor that proved to be critical to Deal winning the GOP Primary against Karen Handel in 2010.

The I-85 Northeast Corridor was basically the area that put Deal over the top in the 2010 primary and even though Deal as of yet has no challengers on either the Republican side or the Democratic side, he is running as if he does have challengers and this I-85 HOT Lane extension dog-and-pony show appears to be part of his re-election campaign strategy.

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TOWG 1 year, 7 months ago

I am a simple man. Would someone please explain to me how we can now be charged to drive on lanes of the highway we have already paid for. Difficulty level: 300 words or less.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 7 months ago

You can now be charged to drive on lanes of the highway that you have already paid for at the pump because there is no law stopping them from charging you again.

On top of that, there is no law stopping them from charging you as much as they want for whatever reason they want.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 7 months ago

In this particular case, the reason why they are charging you for the lanes of the highway that you have already paid for is as a means to force you and everyone else who uses the highway to change their behavior from driving to carpooling with other people to taking transit over the long-term.

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NewsReader 1 year, 7 months ago

Here is the way I see it...

I have a Peach Pass. So, the only time I use the HOT lanes is when I have at least 3 passengers and I drive down the HOT lane for free. I refuse to ever pay for the privilege to drive on a lane I have already paid for. I set the cruise control at or below the speed limit, and drive the full length of the HOT lane. All the while, I watch the cars speed by me on the right in the regular left lane and watch the cars stack up behind me. The way I see it, for all of the time this foolishness wastes of mine, I can simply return the favor to those who feel they are so special paying for the privilege to drive down the HOT lane. And boy, do they get mad when they are stuck in a lane, paying for it, only to be passed by vehicles driving down the interstate for free. LOL! I’m not breaking any laws, so there really is nothing you can do about it. Anybody else feel the same way about the HOT lane, I would encourage you to do the same thing. Waste my time, I’ll waste yours…it’s that simple.

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LilburnsFuture 1 year, 7 months ago

Rather than a HOT lane, tell your representative that you want a full toll like 400. We know politicians want a new lane and maintenance dollars to keep it up and a few employed. Fine, but everyone should pay into the new lane, not 'everyone' with the few rich and politicians taking a lane designated for them and the other slow lanes, so we waste gas, for the commoners.

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Bri 1 year, 7 months ago

What type of feasible solution do you we have for transportion in the area? Can there be such a thing?

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 7 months ago

Bri, there is such a thing as a feasible solution for transportation in Metro Atlanta.

Instead of converting existing traffic lanes to HOT lanes and building new HOT lanes, the most feasible solution WITHOUT the long-term behaviorial engineering agenda would be for the State of Georgia/GDOT to build NEW truck-only lanes on separated-grade roadways elevated over the medians of Metro Atlanta Interstates (particularly on I-75 South OTP, I-20 West OTP, I-75 North OTP, I-85 North OTP, and on the entirety of I-285 which are the stretches of roadway in Metro Atlanta with the heaviest amount of freight truck traffic).

Building elevated truck-only lanes over the right-of-ways of the busiest sections of Interstate will help traffic flow better by separating growing amounts of heavy freight truck traffic from growing amounts of car traffic.

Removing freight trucks from the Interstate by giving them their own lanes will free-up highway lanes for car traffic.

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