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Crowd light at HOT lanes open house

DULUTH -- Jeff Jarrett took a walk on his Buford-area property Thursday morning and heard the air brakes lock on tractor-trailers on Interstate 85 nearby.

"It was bumper-to-bumper at 10:30 this morning," he said that evening, at a public hearing transportation held about a potential solution to the problem: a $95 million project to add a lane of capacity on each side of the interstate from Old Peachtree Road to Hamilton Mill Road.

The catch, he noted, is that the lanes would be an extension to the current 16-mile high-occupancy toll lane system on the highway.

"That's a waste of money," Jarrett said, not convinced that drivers would pay a variable-rate toll in the so-called "Lexus lanes."

Besides, he said, that stretch of highway needs more than one lane that only a handful of drivers would use.

"One lane ain't gonna get it," he said. "This ain't gonna do a thing to alleviate traffic."

The crowd was light at Thursday's open house on the project, but Jann Moore made sure to cross the parking lot from her job at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce to the Gwinnett Center for the meeting.

"The fact that this is going to be a new lane is going to relieve traffic," said Moore, who said the issue is personal since she drives every day from Braselton to Duluth, and sometimes into Atlanta.

"You don't have to use it every day. It's optional for those who really need it," Moore said, adding that at times she thinks the cost of the toll would be worth getting home a little earlier. "I think it's great. ... It's a user fee. Everybody likes those."

Eighteen months ago, officials opened the express lane project on I-85, converting a carpool lane in an attempt to create a reliable trip time. The price of the toll varies to create a 45 mph trip as much as possible for people who choose to pay.

Over time, the price of the toll has increased, with peaks at $6.50 for the entire 16-mile trip.

Winder resident Tom Greenlee said the system isn't fair.

"I think the state's stealing our money," said Greenlee, who has yet to pay the toll despite a daily commute to Buckhead. "I don't think I should have to. My federal tax dollars paid for the current pavement."

Greenlee said his commute time has increase since the tolls began, and he knows of people who have stopped carpooling since the "free" passage in the lane has increased from two per car to three. He called the system discriminatory.

"It's not working. It's not relieving congestion," he said, adding that he believes the state gas tax dollars earmarked for the extension project would be better spent on a fix to the interchange with I-285 or an extension of MARTA rail lines into Gwinnett.

"It's strictly about raising money for the state," he said. "I don't mind them raising money, but they are doing it at the expense of my time, which costs me money."

With another public information set for 4 to 7 p.m. next Thursday at Braselton's Municipal and Court Building, officials said many details have not been determined for the project, including the location of access points for the lanes.

If it moves forward, another set of open houses will be held next year before construction begins, officials said. The lanes could open in 2017.

Comments

SnellvilleEE 1 year, 9 months ago

Reminds me of the failed "Ronald Reagan Parkway Extension" project. pushed by ex-commissioner Mike Beadreau. Many citizens protested by email, phone, and other means against launch of the project. However, since citizen's vote of approval was not required, the project was pushed through. Apparently, the information meetings were staged for the media.

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LilburnsFuture 1 year, 9 months ago

I am actually on the fence regarding Ronald Reagan Parkway. I always felt that if there was a strong desire to extend to I-85, it should be done with a toll road like that of GA 400. This way, only those who care to use it, pay for it however, unlike HOT...all would contribute to it and all would benefit from it. With HOT lanes, those who pay for it benefit from it. Those next to the lane who do not pay for it, suffer from it.

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SnellvilleEE 1 year, 9 months ago

There are many problems with the failed "Ronald Reagan Parkway Extension" project. Foremost is citizens did not vote on the project.

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LilburnsFuture 1 year, 9 months ago

There are work sessions and there are public hearings. If we had to take a vote on everything the county, city, or state did things would move very slowly and incur higher costs just to put any project to a vote.

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Don_Coyote 1 year, 9 months ago

With HOT lanes, everyone who buys gasoline "pays for it". Tolls collected are currently not even paying the administrative costs and are never expected to pay the construction costs.

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LilburnsFuture 1 year, 9 months ago

Local governments never incur the full 100% of construction costs anyway. There are grants, federal and local dollars that go into construction costs of highways. The point was that there would be one cost for 2 axles, 4 axles, etc instead of this rising and falling costs that occur over one lane and traffic at a near stand still while no one wants to pay a cent for that HOT lane.

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SnellvilleEE 1 year, 9 months ago

Government workers are employees of taxpayers. As such, taxpayers have the right to direct government workers and NOT the other way round.

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SnellvilleEE 1 year, 9 months ago

BTW, here is a link to the "Ronald Reagan Parkway Extension" project final report:

www.reaganextension.com/documents/Feasibility_Study_Results.pdf

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Why_not 1 year, 9 months ago

Basically what it amounted to is that Skanska determined that the traffic flow would not be high enough to warrant the private funding versus tolls received.

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JohnGalt 1 year, 9 months ago

Crowd was light? You act like that was a surprise! People are fed up and tired of talking. Now they will do their talking at the ballot box. As for me, my exit strategy is already in place and will be complete before the end of the year. Enjoy your stupid HOT lanes and all the crap that goes with it! I'm done with Gwinnett County.

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tressag5 1 year, 9 months ago

You're crazy, the crowds will be light at the ballot box too. People like to complain, but if it means getting off the coach...well, not so much. We'll miss you.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 9 months ago

Unfortunately, you are very much correct. Except that it is worse than people not getting up off the couch to go and vote.

Because Gwinnett County has grown so fast (nearly 800,000 people have moved into the county over the past four decades) most of the population hails from somewhere else, meaning that most of the newcomers (many of whom have been lower-income as of late) from other states and countries don't even know or care who their local, state and national elected officials are.

Heck, in some local and state elections in Gwinnett, voter turnout rates have been as low as 6%, SIX PERCENT!!!

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Mack711 1 year, 9 months ago

Look at the times that this meeting was held. Most were stuck in traffic. They knew that this schedule would work in their favor. The meetings snould start at 7PM to say 9PM and give that people time to get to these meetings. Thay know what they are doing.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 9 months ago

Exactly...They knew EXACTLY what they are doing by meetings during the teeth of the rush hour when everyone is stuck in the traffic that they've intentionally made worse with their lanes.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 9 months ago

Mr. Galt, I don't blame you one bit for wanting to leave the county before things get worse...And believe me, with Gwinnett County's population quickly speeding towards the 1 million mark (842,000 people now live in the county at the latest count), things are going to get worse.

With a population of 842,000, things are bad enough, so one can only imagine how things will be when the county's population reaches 1 million, probably sometime in the next decade.

Because if you think that HOT Lanes are bad, just wait until they hit us with HOT ROADS with congestion pricing in the form of adjustable tolls on ALL LANES of I-85 (and GA 316 and I-985 and Hwy 78) that are well above $10.00 per-trip EACH WAY into and out of Atlanta.

The tolls on ALL LANES of the freeway system is definitely coming as the i-85 HOT lanes are but only a demo for a much-larger and much more-encompassing system of congestion pricing that is going to be used to push drivers off of the roads and onto bus and rail transit lines.

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LilburnsFuture 1 year, 9 months ago

Effectively, this is a culmination of three missed opportunities. Unfortunately, some will refer to this as incorrect decisions. First, a 400 like toll. When constructed, people felt that businesses would leave such a toll. It did not. More affluent home owners, renters, and businesses continued to move up Roswell, up Alpharetta, up to Cumming. Second, Marta - Yep Marta made it's way to back and west side of Perimeter Mall significantly removed from direct mall access (a lesson learned from Lenox Mall), the third an outer perimeter. Fortunately, areas north of Alpharetta were not as developed as in Gwinnett. Lastly, Ga should have proceeded with the outer perimeter. A good question is if the TSPLOST passed, would HOT lanes been eliminated... probably not, but definately delayed. We just need to realize our love for our cars (now heavier SUVs) means higher gas costs, higher road construction costs from build to maintenance has brought us to more expensive auto associated costs.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 9 months ago

{{"Effectively, this is a culmination of three missed opportunities. Unfortunately, some will refer to this as incorrect decisions...First, a 400 like toll. When constructed, people felt that businesses would leave such a toll. It did not. More affluent home owners, renters, and businesses continued to move up Roswell, up Alpharetta, up to Cumming."}}

Tolls can be very-effective ways of financing new road construction, but tolls are extremely unpopular in the political climate of the state of Georgia.

The only reason why a toll was put on Georgia 400 was because of an extreme lack of transportation funding, even back during the boom years of the late 1980's when the 400 Extension project was approved by the state (under pressure from land spectulation and real estate development interests, of course, who wanted the GA 400 Extension as a way to move traffic directly up to Buckhead, the Perimeter Center area and North Fulton from the Airport and Downtown).

Putting a toll on GA 400 was the only way to get the road built financially seeing as though there was no funding available to get the road built from the proceeds of the gas tax at the time.

Promising to remove the toll from the road after it was built was the only way to get the road built politically as tolls are generally very-unpopular in the political climate in Georgia.

If the use of tolls to build a new road is politically-unpopular, then placing tolls on an untolled existing road is extremely-unpopular (as was witnessed with the implementation of tolls on the existing HOV lanes on I-85 back in late 2011).

The only reason that tolls are being imposed on existing untolled HOV-2 lanes is because the Georgia Department of Transportation now subscribes heavily to the theory of "INDUCED DEMAND" (this term is very-important because look for it to keep coming up in these conversations about HOT lane expansion as all new lanes added to freeways are planned to be toll lanes by GDOT from here on out) after a series of very high-profile public rejections of major roadbuilding proposals.

The only way that tolls would ever be imposed on existing freeways and Interstates like I-85 is through federal imposition, which is coming as the Feds have openly stated that they highly-desire and firmly intend to boost transit usage in the currently transit-averse Atlanta region over the long-term.

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LilburnsFuture 1 year, 8 months ago

If you wondered why the politicians are taking their time to remove the toll is because how effective it was. HOT lanes will not have the same effectiveness as a complete toll. While you keep highlighting that the Ga DOT is going to HOT up down left and right, my introduction of the 400 toll has to do with the type and rate of growth, traffic, and revenue stream one wants for the area. Don't simply get wrapped up on the HOT lanes around the city. The feds are proposing a cost per mile driven. I cannot wait to see how many words are typed up then.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 8 months ago

Politicians aren't taking their time to remove the tolls from Georgia 400 because of their "effectiveness".

Politicians are taking their time to remove the tolls from Georgia 400 because they simply don't want to give up the money that the tolls take in.

The tolls coming off of GA 400 means that the state, via the Georgia Department of Transportation, will have to maintain that road (GA 400) like every other state-maintained road in Georgia but WITHOUT the revenues from the tolls that currently to pay for the road's maintenance.

After paying for that road's maintenance, the remaining revenues from the tolls from GA 400 are then applied to the Georgia Department of Transportation's general funding, almost all of which (except for the GA 400 tolls) is collected from the increasingly-meager proceeds of the Georgia state fuel tax.

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LilburnsFuture 1 year, 8 months ago

{{Politicians are taking their time to remove the tolls from Georgia 400 because they simply don't want to give up the money that the tolls take in}}

Unfortunately, you missed the double meaning behind the intentional use of the word effectiveness.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 8 months ago

Though, I think I know what you mean when you say that the Georgia 400 tolls are "effective" as it appears that you are referring to the fact that the Georgia 400 tolls are "effective" (relatively somewhat) at keeping excess traffic off of the road and paying for the road's entire cost of construction and maintenance, unlike the HOT Lanes which have to be heavily-subdized by the taxpayers, will only recover a very small part of their construction costs and will never pay for their own construction and maintenance no matter how long they operate.

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LilburnsFuture 1 year, 8 months ago

Bingo. Now you understand where I am coming from.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 9 months ago

{{"...Second, Marta - Yep Marta made it's way to back and west side of Perimeter Mall significantly removed from direct mall access (a lesson learned from Lenox Mall)"}}

The problem with MARTA is that it came about in an era of racial polarization and very-high crime rates in the City of Atlanta (much-higher crime rates than today as the City of Atlanta was home to the largest cluster of high-crime public housing projects in the nation south of Washington DC and east of Texas during MARTA's first 3 decades of existence) which meant that the often-derided fears of a MARTA bringing crime to the suburbs from an inner-city filled with some of the most crime-ridden housing projects in the nation were in fact somewhat understandably justified.

Just as there are political interests that don't want MARTA extended out to Gwinnett for fear that it will bring crime and blight from the City of Atlanta and DeKalb, there's also the reality that political interests in the City of Atlanta, South Fulton and DeKalb counties don't want to extend MARTA out to historically predominantly-white and suburban Gwinnett and Cobb counties because they don't want to relinquish the political power and control they have over MARTA.

The only way that increased transit service (bus and rail transit) would ever come online outside of Fulton and DeKalb is if the state played a greater role in managing and operating transit (by taking over MARTA and making it a regional transit entity), something that just simply not going to happen in the immediate future in this transit-averse statewide political climate.

Though, increased transit is likely to come online farther down the road because of the Feds desire to see increased transit usage in a road infrastructure-challenged region in which transit use is extremely low and because of a severe lack of desire for large-scale road expansion in one of the 10-largest metro regions in the nation.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 9 months ago

{{"...the third an outer perimeter. Fortunately, areas north of Alpharetta were not as developed as in Gwinnett."}}

Georgia was not able to proceed with the Outer Perimeter because of widespread objection (and outrage) from the public as it was the state's support of the Outer Perimeter (particularly the Northern Arc portion of the project that runs through some areas of intense political power and influence in Forsyth, Cherokee and Bartow counties in the Northern suburbs) that got the long-ruling Georgia Democrats kicked out of power and pole-vaulted the then up-and-coming Georgia Republicans into power and into firm control of the state's political scene back in 2002.

Also it was the seemingly sparcely-developed outer-suburban and then-exurban areas north of Alpharetta that led the public rejection of the proposed Outer Perimeter and Northern Arc road projects because of the fear that the proposed road was being used by the state to help political insiders make a profit off of land that was owned close to the proposed route of the road and help well-connected developers spread more of the sprawl and overdevelopment that has turned Gwinnett and Cobb counties from bucolic outer-suburban counties into increasingly overcrowded urban districts of Metro Atlanta.

Ironically (or not), it is the overdeveloped and overcrowded county of Gwinnett that has kept the right-of-way of the highly-controversial and highly-unpopular old Northern Arc free of new development because of local plans by Gwinnett County government to eventually extend Sugarloaf Parkway from 316 over to P'tree Industrial Blvd.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 9 months ago

{{"A good question is if the TSPLOST passed, would HOT lanes been eliminated... probably not, but definately delayed."}}

Also, had the T-SPLOST passed, HOT Lanes still would be coming into existence as the plans for a regionwide network of HOT Lanes pre-date the formation of the T-SPLOST. http://www.dot.ga.gov/informationcenter/programs/studies/managedlanes/Documents/FINALREPORT.pdf

There is also much legitimate and valid spectulation that, had it passed, T-SPLOST funds would have been used to fund the construction of new HOT Lanes on I-75/I-575 North in Cobb and Cherokee counties and the HOT Lane Extension that is now in question on I-85 North in Gwinnett County.

One of the (many) major reasons that the T-SPLOST failed was because there were many voters in Gwinnett and Cobb counties that understandably thought that T-SPLOST revenues would be used to fund the construction of new HOT Lanes on I-85 in Gwinnett and, to a lesser extent on I-75 in Cobb.

Another major reason that the T-SPLOST failed was because it was going to be used to fund the aforementioned extension of Sugarloaf Parkway from 316 over through the Mall of Georgia area to P.I.B.

Because the Sugarloaf Pkwy Extension was being constructed in the right-of-way of the abandoned highly-unpopular and controversial Outer Perimeter/Northern Arc, many voters thought that the T-SPLOST was a backdoor way to fund and build a new Northern Arc, a perception that drew very-stiff political opposition to the T-SPLOST both inside and outside I-285.

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LilburnsFuture 1 year, 8 months ago

{{Also, had the T-SPLOST passed, HOT Lanes still would be coming into existence as the plans for a regionwide network of HOT Lanes pre-date the formation of the T-SPLOST. }} This is where I would differ slightly. In the post before you mentioned how the northern arc was defeated. If TSPLOST had passed, HOT lanes would meet with as much bitter debate. While the projects still might have gone through, $uch as the Sugarloaf Parkway, thanks in part by the campaigning of the Chamber of Commerce, residents would not have put up with the financing. But I digress, my opinion on such revenue generating though HOT lanes I find to be less effective and more obtrusive. I feel a Ronald Reagan Parkway if it were to be funded should be done so via a toll similar to the of Ga 400. How about I throw in this bone for debate. It probably was likely that the HOT lanes were simply a back up in case the TSPLOT failed.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 8 months ago

{{"How about I throw in this bone for debate. It probably was likely that the HOT lanes were simply a back up in case the TSPLOT failed."}}

HOT Lanes were not just a back-up in case the T-SPLOST failed, HOT Lanes were coming anyway, whether or not the T-SPLOST passed, maybe even moreso if the T-SPLOST passed which is one of the reasons why the T-SPLOST was voted down so heavily as T-SPLOST funding was likely to be used to extend the HOT lanes north on I-85 as is being proposed now and to construct new reversible HOT lanes on Interstates 75 & 575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties.

Remember, while the I-85 HOT Lanes did not become operational until October 2011, the $110 million in funding for the I-85 HOT Lanes was approved in November 2008 by the outgoing Bush Administration after the State of Georgia had approved and been rejected for funding for the I-85 HOT Lanes on 3 previous occasions.

The November 2008 Bush Administration approval of funding for the I-85 HOT lanes was almost a year-and-a-half before the series of T-SPLOST referendums was greenlighted by the Georgia Legislature at the very end of the 2010 session of the Georgia General Assembly.

Also, the plans for HOT Lanes in Georgia first appeared in the proposal for the first edition of the I-75/I-575 Northwest Corridor (then called the I-75/I-575 NW HOV/BRT project) which was conceptualized beginning in November 2001 and finalized as a concept in 2006-07. http://www.nwhovbrt.com/Pages/History.htm

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LilburnsFuture 1 year, 8 months ago

From the AJC - the plans for the roads are ever so evolving...

Making a lane of I-20 reversible? Variable speed limits on the Downtown Connector? Reversible central “zipper” lanes and more shoulder lanes for other roads?

All are proposals under evaluation now at the state Department of Transportation, as officials rewrite the toll plan for metro Atlanta.

Recommendations won’t be out until late fall. But one thing is sure: The state means to build more optional toll lanes here.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 8 months ago

{{"I feel a Ronald Reagan Parkway if it were to be funded should be done so via a toll similar to the of Ga 400."}}

You make a good point as the sale of bonds paid off with tolls would help get an extension to Ronald Reagan Parkway built and operational much quicker and much sooner than through conventional means of financing.

The only problem is that the public does not seem to be all that hot on anything that seems to be a large-scale road expansion as Gwinnett County floated the idea of extending Ronald Reagan Parkway to I-85 along with the idea of extending the expressway portion of P'tree Industrial Blvd and extending Sugarloaf Parkway from 316 up through new interchanges at Interstates 85 and 985 and on up to P'tree Industrial Blvd all with tolls and the proposals were not received all that well by the public, mostly out of concern that the projects would only be to the benefit of land spectulators and real estate developers.

At this point, there just does not necessarily seem to be enough public support to extend Ronald Reagan Pkwy to I-85 and Sugarloaf Pkwy from 316 to PIB with or without tolls because of a declining appetite and tolerance for new large-scale road construction (particularly expressways) and an understandable increase in the mistrust of an unethical county government.

Gwinnett County also looks to be permitting new residential development to go up in the right-of-way of the proposed Sugarloaf Pkwy extension between GA 20 and I-985, which if that is the case means that a Sugarloaf Pkwy extension, tolled or untolled is increasingly-unlikely as the county had previously been very meticulous in making sure to keep the right-of-way of the abandoned Northern Arc free of development because of plans to extend Sugarloaf Pkwy from 316 to PIB through the Mall of Georgia area.

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LilburnsFuture 1 year, 8 months ago

{{The only problem is that the public does not seem to be all that hot on anything that seems to be... }}

fill in the blank. Sidewalks? Bike Trails, Nature Trails, Road extentions, bussing. When tax dollars are involved, it's easy to find anyone opposed.

A woman walks around a market with a box of fruit and asks a man, would you like an orange, a banana, or an apple? The man replies, I don't like oranges.

The man is so focused on his opposition with oranges that he doesn't even mention the other two options or he could even say neither.

You can always find people in the public that will not be hot about one thing or another. Plus, I was referring to Ronald Reagan. Oh, there is appetitite. But, it's a recession.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 1 year, 8 months ago

Excellent points. The only problem is that new expressway construction is of a much different nature, politically and emotionally than the other publicly-funded proposals you describe that taxpayers might be opposed to as the construction of new expressways is regarded by most of the public to have much more of a significant (often negative) impact on quality-of-life than sidewalks or nature trails.

And speaking of the proposed Ronald Reagan Parkway extension to I-85, here's a report from only two months ago in February 2013 that has deemed the road to be unfeasible at this time.

A key excerpt from the report: {{"As a stand-alone project, the Ronald Reagan Parkway Extension does not result in enough travel time savings to make paying a toll a perceived value-added option. Although the T&R study indicated that 45,000-50,000 vehicles per day would use the road if it were in place today with no toll, the traffic was projected to drop off dramatically at the initiation of any tolling. Toll sensitivity models take a variety of factors into account. In this case, the factors that negatively affected users’ willingness to pay included the current state of the economy, an overall reduction of trips in the corridor (less congestion than anticipated) and the highly congested conditions on I-85 at the terminus. As a result of these forecasts, it became apparent that it is not economically feasible to move the Ronald Reagan Parkway Extension project forward as a stand-alone toll-funded, public-private initiative at this time. However, the study did indicate that the project could have potential merit in the future and is worth considering at such time that traffic conditions and the economy dictate."}} http://www.reaganextension.com/documents/Feasibility_Study_Results.pdf

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