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Perimeter city officials are building lobby against pricey I-285 toll lanes project

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The controversial highway expansion is an effort to curb traffic congestion, state leaders say

A map of the proposed project.
GDOT officials say the I-285 Top End Express Lanes project could reduce traffic delays by thousands of hours each day.
Georgia Department of Transportation

A major state-led toll lane project planned for the northern side of Interstate 285’s Perimeter has met with a new source of friction: elected officials.

As part of its $11 billion “Major Mobility Investment Program,” the Georgia Department of Transportation aims to build new express lanes along the Perimeter between Henderson Road, in Tucker, and Paces Ferry Road, in Vinings.

But some municipal leaders in Dunwoody and Doraville believe the effort will hardly be a silver bullet for traffic problems, and that GDOT needs to step back and reassess its approach.

So city councilmembers from both cities have begun signing a Change.org petition launched by a Dunwoody resident that calls for pumping the breaks on the expansion project, according to Reporter Newspapers.

Dunwoody City Councilman John Heneghan told the publication that a focus on mass transit expansion should come before major car-centric construction gets underway. (A GDOT spokesperson responded by saying the agency is prohibited by law from funding heavy rail projects.)

The Top End Express Lanes project, which would create two new barrier-separated lanes running in both directions along the northern arc of the Perimeter, is still in the early design phase. Detailed plans should be made available early next year.

But a clearer picture of how the highway overhaul could impact neighboring communities is emerging.

In April, Brookhaven city leaders told constituents the toll lane project could affect more than 300 properties.

Then, in May, it was reported that GDOT had purchased five acres of Doraville land that was supposed to see the construction of high-density office space—part of the ongoing Assembly mixed-use development.

As of press time, more than 1,000 people have signed the anti-toll lane petition. The goal is to get to 1,500.

Heneghan also told Reporter Newspapers that he’s going to lobby Dunwoody’s mayor and city manager to enlist an environmental impact attorney to help analyze the implications of the mammoth construction undertaking.

This, of course, is not the only major project on GDOT’s docket.

Another component of the Major Mobility Investment Program is the Ga. Highway 400 express lanes project, which would create new lanes along the highway between the North Springs MARTA Station and McFarland Parkway.

But some observers, such as the urbanists at ThreadATL, are finding these efforts archaic.

“It’s stunning that in 2019 we’re still trying to ‘ease traffic’ in Atlanta by adding the exact thing that’s inducing all the car trips: road capacity,” wrote ThreadATL’s Darin Givens in a recent blog post.