The State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) and Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) plan to open Georgia’s first “reversible" express toll lanes on Jan. 28.
They include two additional lanes along 12 miles of Interstate-75, south of the city of Atlanta.
Reversible lanes will let drivers drive north toward the city during the morning rush hour and south the rest of the day, between 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
At the state's transportation management center in southeast Atlanta, operators said they’ll be using new technology to reverse lanes of traffic.
The technology involves overhead digital signs warning drivers not to enter the lanes from a certain direction and timed barrier gates physically blocking off access.
"From statistics, there was a need for it,” said SRTA supervisor Jeffrey Hill. “My personal belief is, ‘Yeah, we did need something to relieve that congestion.’ I live in that area and it is backed up daily down in that area. I think this would allow some of that congestion to dissipate.”
To be extra careful, highway emergency response operators or HEROs first drive through the lanes to make sure no vehicles are in the lane before they reverse it.
A “wrong way vehicle alert” flashes on the computer if vehicles are also detected through sensors, which connects to toll points and surveillance cameras.
“In the case that there is a vehicle that's driving on the wrong side of the Express Lane, it gives us a toll point and in coordination with GDOT, we could go to our cameras and we could get a HERO unit on the scene," said SRTA Operator Lisandro Mejia.
In all, the reversal process takes about an hour and a half.
Reversible Lane Cost
Using the reversible lanes on I-75 comes at a cost. Commuters need a toll lane device called a Peach Pass to enter the lane and avoid a fine. The maximum cost is projected to be $10.80 per trip.
The tolls will range from $0.10 to $0.90 per mile based on demand and traffic, with a minimum toll charge for any trip of no less than $0.50.
Using the reversible lanes will be free for the first two weeks of February.
I-75 Express Toll Lanes
Matt Markham with the SRTA said this is great practice for the state before GDOT's Northwest Corridor opens in mid-2018.
“Opening the I-75 South lanes now is a good way to get us prepared for the even bigger project that’ll open next year,” Markham said.
It will be more than double the size, with 30 miles of reversible lanes on I-75 and I-575 in Cobb County.