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Park & Ride being expanded
Facility at I-985 and Ga. 20 to get 350 new spaces in project
Riders exit a Gwinnett County Transit bus at the Park & Ride lot at Interstate 985 and Ga. 20 Friday. A $906,000 expansion of the Park & Ride lot has begun. - photo by SARAH

As part of a federal transportation grant, a $906,000 expansion of the Park & Ride parking lot at Interstate 985 and Ga. 20 in Buford is under way.

Crews are grading some 2 acres to add about 350 new spaces to the lot, which has about 350 now.

The project, which included $1.5 million in land acquisition costs, also calls for improvements to the passenger pavilion on the property, said William Mecke, spokesman for the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority.

From the Park & Ride lot, Gwinnett County Transit buses now take commuters to downtown Atlanta destinations, including the state Capitol, each morning starting at 5:40.

The bus service also picks up passengers in Atlanta and brings them back to the lot, with the last arrival at 7:40 p.m., according to the agency’s route schedule.

Expansion of service is still iffy.

“We still have a capacity on that (bus service),” Mecke said. “They’ll look at that route first before they start talking about adding stuff, but it’s definitely a possibility.”

The project, slated to finish this summer, is expected to bring immediate relief.

“That lot is full most days, and then some,” Mecke said.

The expansion is part of a $110 million U.S. Department of Transportation Congestion Reduction Demonstration grant in 2008.

The grant is paying for easing traffic on Interstate 85 in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties through transit improvements, innovative technology and variable toll pricing.

The initial phase of the project is the conversion of a 15-mile stretch of high-occupancy vehicles lanes to high occupancy toll lanes from Chamblee-Tucker Road to Old Peachtree Road in Gwinnett.

Under the new system, people with two or more passengers will be able to drive in the HOT lanes for free, as is the case now with the HOV lane. People driving solo or with one other passenger will be able to drive in the lane for a toll that’s based on the level of I-85 congestion at the time.

The federal money also is paying for 36 new transit coaches and two new Park & Ride lots, including one at Hamilton Mill Road near Buford.

Hall County has mulled eventually starting an express route service that would connect to Gwinnett Transit at the I-985 exit in Buford, said Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of Gainesville-Hall’s Community Service Center.

“That conversation has been delayed, particularly with the onset of the recession,” she said. “At this point, we are trying to make sure we have enough local funds to support our current transit system. We’re not in a position to think about expansion at this time.”

Hall Area Transit is a public transportation system that has served Gainesville and Hall since 1983. Its Red Rabbit buses provide scheduled bus services throughout Gainesville and parts of Oakwood.

“I think an express route to connect to Gwinnett and to the rest of metro Atlanta is essential to alleviating traffic congestion,” Moss said. “I think it’s a no-brainer it needs to happen.”

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