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GDOT, Gwinnett leaders launch three-year traffic study to decongest I-85

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Without mass transit expansion, is there hope for the interstate?

A busy Atlanta interstate with traffic in many lanes. AP

Almost a year after Gwinnett County voters turned up their noses at the prospect of mass transit expansion, local and state transportation leaders are still grappling with how to move people more efficiently.

Each day, up to 340,000 vehicles crawl down Interstate 85 outside the I-285 Perimeter, and traffic volumes are climbing.

So officials from the Georgia Department of Transportation and Gwinnett County have launched a traffic study to address how to reduce congestion and improve safety along I-85 between the Perimeter and I-985 near the Mall of Georgia, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Results, though, won’t come overnight.

With a series of meetings and an online survey, transportation leaders hope to wrap the study in about three years. Implementing potential fixes would take longer.

And whether it’s even possible to reduce congestion on I-85—without significant mass transit expansion, that is—is another question entirely.

In recent years, GDOT has made a number of adjustments and additions to I-85 in an effort to curb clogging.

New diverging-diamond interchanges, for instance, were installed at Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Pleasant Hill Road. And in 2011, HOV lanes were converted into toll lanes along part of the corridor.

Other projects are now percolating as part of GDOT’s potentially $11 billion Major Mobility Investment Program, such as a further widening of I-85.

The results of the survey could pave the way for even more express lanes.

But the March 2019 transit referendum wasn’t Gwinnett’s only chance for boosting transit capabilities in the area.

In August, Gwinnett officials announced they were sketching a new plan for potential transit expansion that could lead to public conversations later this year.

And in September, the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners voted to launch the Transit Review Committee, a response to the thwarted MARTA referendum and a growing interest in mass transit.

Another transit-supporting sales tax question could appear on the November ballot.