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What’s next for commuters after I-85 Express Lane project wraps up in October
I-85 traffic.jpg
Traffic sits stopped at the I-85/985 split during ongoing construction in the area.

More lanes are opening up — or will be in a few years — for Northeast Georgia commuters to Atlanta.

A $178 million project extending Express Lanes up Interstate 85 from just north of Old Peachtree Road to Hamilton Mill Road in Gwinnett is set for completion in late October, Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Natalie Dale said.

“Construction consists of ongoing paving, bridge work and sound wall installation,” she said.

Tolls for those lanes could start the first week of November, Dale said.

Only motorists with a Peach Pass can travel legally in the Express Lane, which now runs between Old Peachtree Road and Chamblee-Tucker Road in DeKalb County.

The Peach Pass is a device that automatically deducts tolls based on the amount of traffic congestion.

The Express Lane extension began in August 2016.

But more lanes are on the way.

With a groundbreaking ceremony in Braselton last month, the DOT kicked off the widening of Interstate 85 from Interstate 985 in Gwinnett to U.S. 129 in Jackson County.

U.S. 129 travels into Hall County, where the road is being widened from two to four lanes to Gillsville Highway.

The I-85 project will be done in two phases and a total of 24 miles — from I-985 to Ga. 53 in Braselton and then from Ga. 53 to U.S. 129.

The first phase’s construction is expected to be completed in 2020, according to the DOT.

The cost estimate for both phases is about $440 million.

The I-85 widening is the first of 11 statewide Major Mobility Investment Program projects through 2030 with the goal of reducing traffic congestion.

“Georgia DOT is making a major investment in the state’s roadway transportation network to meet regional needs and deliver positive results to drivers,” DOT Commissioner Russell McMurry said.

The widening of I-985 to six lanes from I-85 to Oakwood in South Hall isn’t in the program, but it is in DOT plans. The project, estimated to cost $81 million, could start as early as 2022, state officials have said.

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