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Tollway chief coming to Gainesville for HOT lanes talk
New toll lanes on Interstate 85 still controversial
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Gena Evans, executive director with the State Road and Tollway Authority, is set to speak Nov. 1 in Gainesville about the new toll lanes on Interstate 85.

She will address the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Policy Committee, which is set to meet at 10 a.m. in the Georgia Mountains Center.

Srikanth Yamala, the organization’s transportation planning manager, said he invited Evans in August to the November meeting.

The state’s new “high-occupancy toll,” or HOT, lanes opened Oct. 1 and have been met with much disapproval.

The biggest complaint is that the new lanes have few users and, as a result, motorists are clogging up the regular lanes, causing more congestion than was previously there.

A state lawmaker said she fears that anger over the new Interstate toll system could have an impact on next summer’s sales tax vote for other transportation projects.

Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said she’s never gotten so many angry phone calls or emails about one topic. She said her constituents are angry because they say their commute times have doubled.

State officials say the number of motorists using the so-called HOT lanes has increased in recent days.

The state had operated one lane of I-85 in each direction between Old Peachtree Road in Gwinnett County and Chamblee-Tucker Road in DeKalb County just for carpoolers, two or more in a car, before converting them to the HOT lanes.

Under the new, federally funded system, three or more in a car can ride for free, as well as motorcyclists and alternative-fuel vehicle motorists.

All others, including solo commuters, must pay a fee based on the level of congestion at the time they enter the HOT lane.

Gov. Nathan Deal later lowered the tolls after traffic jammed during rush hour, but complaints have persisted.

Georgia lawmakers were to hold a town-hall meeting Monday night to hear from metro Atlanta commuters on the matter. The meeting was to take place at North View Church on Gravel Springs Road in Buford.

Deal has said if the project fails, it could endanger plans for toll lanes on other metro Atlanta highways.

In a September 2010 press conference in Buford kicking off the project, Evans had high hopes.

“We think this is the start of something terrific in metro Atlanta, that this is the first of many projects to come along in the HOT lane area,” she said.
Associated Press contributed to this report.

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