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GDOT’s new Cobb, Cherokee express lanes hailed for people-moving prowess

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The project earned a design award, as leaders call highways the system of Georgia’s future

The new express lanes, in white, hop over the general access lanes snuggled between two large clumps of green trees.
The Northwest Corridor Express Lanes, in all their off-hours glory.
Georgia Department of Transportation

While the Georgia Department of Transportation and metro Atlanta leaders iron out plans to build controversial new express lanes, one of the state agency's most significant recent projects is being hailed as a triumph.

GDOT officials announced Wednesday the Northwest Corridor Express Lanes Project, which wrapped in September, has been gifted the Design-Build Institute of America’s “prestigious” National Award of Merit for Transportation.

The award recognizes the people-moving power of the new lanes. They extend along Interstates 75 and 575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties and feature almost 30 miles of priced, reversible express lanes.

Since the NWC Express Lanes opened to motorists some 10 months ago, they’ve supported more than six million trips and have recorded travel speeds 30 percent faster than the general purpose lanes, according to GDOT.

Additionally, officials claim, rush hour in that part of the highway system has been reduced by more than an hour for both morning and evening commutes, and general purpose lane users have witnessed their average rush-hour speed double from 20 to 40 miles per hour.

The lanes “offer a glimpse into the future of our transportation network, which includes a connected system of express lanes in metropolitan Atlanta,” GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry said in a prepared statement. “We view this project as one of the most transformative projects in state history, enhancing both mobility and transportation choice for Georgia motorists.”

The award, of course, comes on the heels of debates between state and municipal leaders over how future express lanes projects—part of the $11 billion Major Mobility Investment Program—could impact cities.

Officials in cities like Alpharetta, Sandy Springs, Roswell, Dunwoody, Doraville, and Brookhaven are concerned that new express lanes created along Interstate 285 or Ga. Highway 400 could displace residents, frustrate traffic, and create unwelcome noise in nearby communities.

Meanwhile, metro places like Cobb County are taking their sweet time to decide if mass transit expansion might be the right move in coming years.

If so, perhaps, more metro Atlanta communities would have a different type of transportation system to celebrate.