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The billion-dollar Ga. Highway 400 express lanes project: What you need to know

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New flyover video lends a preview of how the lanes—and MARTA’s first rapid bus system—will function

A rendering of SR 400 Express Lanes shows interchange ramps that could be created in Roswell.
A system that state officials say will slash commute times by thousands of hours each day in the next decade.
Georgia Department of Transportation

The Georgia Department of Transportation wants to improve commuters’ rides to and from intown Atlanta along Ga. Highway 400—a needed fix, by any measure.

As a result, GDOT introduced plans for SR 400 Express Lanes running between the North Springs MARTA Station and McFarland Parkway. The agency also recently released a flyover video illustrating how miles of the lanes will function.

The lanes are one of 11 so-called Major Mobility Investment Program projects developed with the goal of reducing congestion along key freight and passenger corridors around the metro area, between Atlanta and Macon, and at the Interstate 16/Interstate 95 interchange outside Savannah.

According to GDOT, the SR 400 Express Lanes are expected to reduce delays by more than 19,000 hours each day by 2030.

Once the Interstate 285 Top End Express Lanes are completed (given the estimated construction start date is 2023, this won’t be anytime soon), the SR 400 Express Lanes will connect with those lanes at the SR 400/Interstate 285 interchange.

Until that time, the SR 400 Express Lanes will merge into general purpose lanes on I-285.

Georgia’s first ever bus rapid transit route is planned along the Ga. 400 express lanes.
Georgia Department of Transportation

The details:

WHAT: The SR 400 Express Lanes will run 16 miles, with two buffer-separated lanes in each direction between the North Springs MARTA Station and McGinnis Ferry Road and one buffer-separated lane in each direction from McGinnis Ferry Road to McFarland Parkway.

In the current project plans, access will be available from surface streets via four direct-access ramps and from general-purpose lanes via three direct-merge access points. However, access points via the general-purpose lanes are under evaluation and may change from initial plans.

WHO: The SR 400 Express Lanes will be open to all vehicles with two axles and six wheels or less provided the driver has a Peach Pass. Transit vehicles, registered vanpools, and emergency vehicles may access the express lanes without paying a fee.

According to GDOT, those transit vehicles will include Georgia’s first bus rapid transit system by MARTA.

Fees to access the express lanes will be based on dynamic pricing, with higher fees during peak hours and lower fees during non-peak hours.

The State Road and Tollway Authority maintains a minimum toll of 10 cents per mile on all Georgia Express Lanes. When demand for the lanes is at its lowest, the minimum toll will be 50 cents per trip regardless of length traveled.

The proposed access points for the SR 400 Express Lanes.
Georgia Department of Transportation

WHEN: It won’t be right away. Right now, the project remains in the planning and environmental phase. Construction is scheduled to start in 2021 with a projected completion date in 2024.

At this time, the price tag for SR 400 Express Lanes is targeted at $1.8 billion. Proposed funding will come from a combination of state, federal, and local dollars, including a $184 million grant from the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America.

While many drivers may see the express lanes as a welcome addition to SR 400, there is one group of folks who were shocked and dismayed at this announcement. Currently, 20 homeowners in the Spalding Woods subdivision in Sandy Springs were told their homes would be demolished for the project.

GDOT invited these homeowners to a February meeting, where they shared the news with the unsuspecting homeowners. In addition, more homes could be demolished along the route to make room for the express lanes, although no further announcements have been made.