Federal Government Plan Aims To Curb Metro Atlanta Traffic

Georgia Tech a partner in $110 million toll project on I-85

The federal government is investing $110 million to support an innovative Georgia state plan to reduce traffic congestion in Metropolitan Atlanta, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters announced today. The plan will allow more commuters to take advantage of I-85's HOV lanes northeast of the city, and will allow for the establishment of new high-speed commuter bus service into downtown, Secretary Peters noted.

"This ambitious plan will tame traffic, pump new money into the region's transit services and redefine the way people use I-85," said Secretary Peters. "The goal is simple, make commutes reliable, not ridiculous."

Georgia Tech's School of Civil and Environmental Engineering has helped shepherd the project for two years, from honing the technology to be utilized to analyzing the impact this project will have on metro Atlanta gridlock.

The result should be a smoother - and swifter - ride for road-weary commuters.

"It increases the ability of facilities to carry vehicles without making a new right of way," said Dr. Randall Guensler, professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. "If you look at the I-85 corridor, there's no room to expand. People have the option of buying into faster travel and our focus groups said that was valued by all income groups."

Similar programs have been initiated in Denver, Houston, Orange County, Calif., San Diego and Minneapolis, with the latter system most closely resembling the plan destined for Gwinnett, Guensler said.

According to the Texas Transportation Institute's 2007 Urban Mobility Report, the Atlanta metro area is tied for the second-highest level of traffic congestion as measured in terms of hours of delay per rush hour driver.

Georgia Tech's involvement in this effort to break the bottleneck is just beginning. Guensler is overseeing a vehicle monitoring program for drivers who elect to cruise through the new lanes. Measurements will include household traffic behavior, emissions and potential equity impacts.

The focus group will include 700 households comprising 1,500 vehicles, which include express buses.

Guensler calls it 'the most comprehensive travel behavior study that's ever been done'

The first phase of the project will institute a network consisting of dynamically-priced high occupancy toll lanes on I-85, stretching from I-285 to Old Peachtree Road by January 2011. Future phases of Atlanta's congestion plan will include a 49-mile network of additional HOV-to-HOT lane conversions along I-85, I-75 and I-20. Similar HOT lane projects have been implemented in Minneapolis and Southern California, and these areas have already seen a reduction in the amount of congestion during peak travel times.

Also included in the grant is $30 million for transit service enhancement that will operate on the newly converted expressways. The funding will go towards the purchase of new buses and the construction and expansion of park-and-ride facilities.

Atlanta is the most recent city to receive federal funding from the Department of Transportation for its efforts to establish a more permanent Federal program focused on innovative solutions to improve mobility and fight increasing congestion in metropolitan areas. Details on Secretary Peters' innovative Reform Proposal can be found at www.FightGridlockNow.gov.

"The money we are providing today will make commuting faster, transit better and small businesses more competitive," said Secretary Peters. "Together, we'll make traffic in Atlanta go with the wind."

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