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DOT to hold final hearing on HOV lane
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DOT hearing

Here are details about the Georgia Department of Transportation’s final hearing on plans to convert high occupancy vehicle lanes to high occupancy/toll lanes on Interstate 85:

When: 3-8 p.m. Nov. 12
Where: Gwinnett Center, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth, in rooms 2AB and 3AB of the Convention Center
The Georgia Department of Transportation has set a final round of public hearings on plans to allow solo commuters to ride — for a fee — in Interstate 85 car-pool lanes in Gwinnett and DeKalb counties.

The hearings are scheduled for 3-8 p.m. Nov. 12 at Gwinnett Center at 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth. The public hearing will be held in rooms 2AB and 3AB of the Convention Center.

The project calls for converting high occupancy vehicle lanes to high occupancy/toll lanes from Chamblee-Tucker Road to just north of Old Peachtree Road, or about 16 miles.

Currently, two or more people can travel that stretch for free. But under the new system, according to changes approved by the DOT board, only cars with three or more people can ride that stretch toll-free.

All others would pay a fee based on the amount of traffic filling the lane, DOT officials have said.

“The lane is getting too full and slowing down,” said Teri Pope, a spokeswoman for the department, of the reasoning behind the recent DOT decision.

A $110 million Federal Highway Administration grant would go toward the project. Georgia will contribute $37 million.

Motorists would install a piece of equipment in their car that would impose a fee as they enter the lane. The toll collected from commuters would be used to operate and maintain the lane and the system.

The DOT has held two public hearings since the spring on the project.

As in those hearings, the public will be able to ask questions and discuss the project with DOT officials.

Also, officials from the Georgia Regional Transit Authority and the State Toll and Roadway Authority will be on hand to field questions.

“We hope our customers, the users of this portion of Interstate 85, will come and share their opinions with us,” said Gerald Ross, DOT chief engineer.

A copy of an environmental assessment will be available for review and feedback.

“The environmental document shows that we’ve met all 53 federal environmental laws dealing with history, archeology, ecology, noise and air studies and public input,” Pope said.

She noted, however, that “every project can be delayed, stopped or changed because of public input.”

The document’s final approval comes from the Federal Highway Administration, Pope said.

The public can submit comments by Nov. 23. Displays at the open house will be available through most of November at the DOT offices at 2505 Athens Highway, Gainesville, and in Chamblee.

After the meeting, information will be at www.dot.ga.gov under the “Public Outreach” section.

Pope said the DOT has gotten 355 comments, with sentiment varying from strong support to opposition.

If the environmental document is OK’d, the project would go out for bids in December and could be awarded to a contractor in early January, Pope said.

The HOT lane could be open as soon as January 2011, she added.
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