Just five days after launching the controversial HOT lane on I-85 in Atlanta, Gov. Nathan Deal has stepped in and offered an olive branch. Just today, the governor said that he would reduce the cost that motorists will pay to take advantage of the new traffic lane. While it’s a (small) step in the right direction, opponents of the new I-85 HOT lane are still hot because there are no concrete answers as to just how much the fees will be reduced and when. A spokesperson from Gov. Deal’s office told the AJC today, “The algorithm used to calculate the higher tolls to be charged as traffic worsens is being rewritten.”
Huh? Could this be any more vague? Apparently, Gov. Deal is trying to step in as the hero in a big white hat, but opponents to the I-85 HOT lane in Atlanta aren’t buying it. Yes, the Georgia governor has said that tolls would be reduced from $5.50 to $3.00. Yes, he has said that he is asking for a waiver to include two passenger vehicles. What he is not saying is if the changes will be permanent. Officials from the State Road & Tollway Authority (SRTA) would only say that the agency is still collecting data before it makes any final determination or recommendation.
Why does SRTA need to collect data? The embattled agency only needs to ask drivers who regularly use I-85 about their experience with the Peach Pass I-85 HOT lane. Many parents are angry because commute times have doubled, meaning they spend less time with their children. Opponents are so angry about the new HOT lane on I-85 that they’re eager to buy a “No Peach Pass” bumper sticker or help fund a giant billboard.
Gov. Deal also said that his office is looking into improving the access and exit points on the I-85 HOT lane. This has been a major issue with commuters who may be willing to try the new speedy lane. He said today…
Even before the lanes opened, we knew we needed to improve the access and exit points in the southbound direction. SRTA and the Georgia Department of Transportation are working together and I’ve directed them to prioritize this action.
Wow. Really? If the responsible agencies were aware of potential problems prior to opening the HOT lane on I-85, why weren’t the issues corrected prior to implementation? This simply doesn’t make sense and frustrated drivers continue to voice their objections, despite Gov. Deal’s promise to lower fees.
In just two days, the “Against the Peach Pass” Facebook page has attracted close to 2,000 new “friends”. They are all very vocal about the new I-85 HOT lane. Below are a few of the more recent comments…
- “I wish they took the $60 million and extended the Marta train out to Gwinnett. At least schools and work places will compensate the fee. With the HOT lane, you can’t even make it to Buford Hwy to get on the train without sitting in traffic for 45+ minutes!” – Quynh Tran
- “The Peach Pass/Toll Hot lane, call it what you will is just another sign of how badly our govt. is out of touch with the people that put them in office!” – Keith Ratchek
- “Why are you penalizing people that used to be able to use the lanes? We got one less car off the road and we are being penalized. Horrible!” – Kristi Seymour
- “Anyone selling car magnet bumper stickers saying “no to peach pass”? I need a few to post on my car for my new 2 hr drive in to work.” – Torie Withers West
- “Now families passing thru Atlanta or leaving Atlanta going northeast on I-85 have to pay 15 dollars for a transponder so big brother will know who they are.” – Jim Backstrom
- “I would like to thank the Georgia DOT for spending $60 million of OUR tax dollars so that we can all spend an extra hour in the car every day on I-85. Geesh. Great investment. As they say…”YOUR tax dollars at work.” Are these people ever up for election? Would love to vote them out.” – Chuck Quarles
- “Before the HOT lanes, the I85 traffic was bad but bearable, now the traffic is horrific and the worse it has been in a number if years. The primary goal of this project was to increase revenues to the state and easing congestion was far down the list. It turns out it had quite the opposite effect on traffic and it will take who knows how many years to recoup the investment if this is even possible….” – Carol Alvarez
The I-85 toll lane opened over the weekend. To use the lane, a driver must have a Peach Pass, even if there are enough riders in a car to qualify for free passage.
As of today, car pools of TWO people or more ride free, as do transit vehicles, motorcycles, cars with alternative fuel license plates and mass transit. Violators are subject to a $25 SRTA fine and a police fine of up to $150.
Clark Howard, Atlanta’s most famous consumer advocate, dislikes the HOT lane and referred to it as the “Lexus Lane” earlier this week during his radio show. So, what can parents and drivers do to fight the new Peach Pass HOT lane on I-85?
Make your voice heard. Start by “liking” the Facebook page titled “Against the Peach Pass.” On it, you’ll find a wealth of resources, including ways to contact Gov. Nathan Deal, Gena Evans and the SRTA. A collective, united voice can often make a difference.
Note to parents: If you think this issue doesn’t affect you because you don’t use I-85, think again. Unless stopped, authorities have plans for installing HOT lanes on other Metro Atlanta highways. Stay informed. This hot button issue could soon be in your own backyard.
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