As an indication that state officials might be craftier than we often give them credit for, work has started on 52 miles of transit corridors criss-crossing the metro, and you probably didn't even know it. Disguised as roads — something any red-blooded Atlantan will always support — a system of managed lanes is being installed by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) along major interstate corridors to relieve congestion for those willing to pay for speed, according to the Saporta Report. The cleverness, however, is that the lanes will not only provide for private cars to bypass traffic, but they'll give Georgia Regional Transit Authority (GRTA) a chance to keep their Xpress bus services moving along. In what just might be a game-changer, the state is bypassing its rules requiring road funding to not support transit projects by building what the people want — roads — but allowing transit to reap the benefits, while charging commuters tolls to use the same system. And with the advent of new lanes, Xpress plans to seriously ramp up service.
In conjunction with planned or under construction corridors along interstates 75, 575, 85 and 985, GRTA will construct new park and ride facilities to tie directly into the lanes. Additionally, new services will start running across the metro, including buses to Perimeter and Hartsfield-Jackson. Added destinations could bring more riders, which could help drive further expansion of the system.
The first phase of the lanes will open in January 2017, stretching 12 miles through Henry County on I-75. Ten miles of lanes will come to Gwinnett in 2018. That same year, expect to see the Northwest Corridor open, featuring a whopping 29.7 miles of reversible lanes stretching through Cobb.
This instance of cooperation between GDOT, the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) and GRTA is really unprecedented and encouraging. The collaboration comes following the consolidation of leadership for GRTA and SRTA under Chris Tomlinson late last year. With this first big project off the ground, time will tell if Georgia commuters will benefit from the relationship.