Exactly one year after the toll lanes along I-85 through Gwinnett County opened, they continue to spark debate.
Drivers must pay to use the High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes unless they have three or more people in their vehicle. The toll is determined based on the volume of traffic.
"Get rid of them," said Donald Reeves of Gwinnett County.
The toll lanes sparked controversy when they opened last October. Many drivers said they refused to pay to use the Interstate since they already pay taxes. Others said the new lanes increased their commute times in the non-toll lanes.
"One year later and the traffic is just as worse," said Chris Haley, a co-founder of Stolen Lanes-dot-org, a grassroots group opposed to the HOT lanes. "We've seen no overall improvement on the I-85 corridor."
Since the HOT lanes opened, the state has lowered the toll structure and added another access point along the 16-mile stretch.
Baruch Feigenbaum is a traffic policy analyst with the Reason Foundation, the organization that invented the HOT lane concept.
"I'm not going to tell you it's perfect situation," Feigenbaum told CBS Atlanta News. "But I think given what they had to work with, it's turned out very well."
Feigenbaum said data indicates commute times in the non-toll lanes have not gone up and in many cases have declined as more people use the HOT lanes.
"If they're in that lane, they're not in the general lane so that's an improved commute for everyone," said Feigenbaum.
Numbers provided by SRTA indicated that drivers made nearly 17,000 daily trips during August of 2012, the most recent statistics available. The agency collected $422,932 that month.
"We have not declared success or failure of the Express lanes, but we are pleased with how the data is trending thus far," said Malika Reed Wilkins of the State Road and Tollway Authority.
Find out how many commuters are using the toll lanes and what drivers have to say one year later tonight at 6 p.m. on CBS Atlanta News.
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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