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ATLANTA — Georgia transportation officials have eliminated toll limits on express lanes, which could mean a more expensive commute for some motorists.
The State Road and Tollway Authority repealed restrictions on toll charges, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. It had been set at a maximum of $13.95 to drive the I-85 lanes in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties.
The authority also repealed the 90-cent-per-mile maximum on the I-75 South Metro Express Lanes in Clayton and Henry counties.
The cost to drive the full 16-mile length of the I-85 could reach $15 to $16 at times, Authority Executive Director Chris Tomlinson said. But he said most drivers won’t pay that much because they don’t drive the full length of the lanes.
“People shouldn’t be alarmed by this,” Tomlinson said.
The agency expects the average toll on the lanes to be $5.50 to $6.50.
The decision is aimed at standardizing toll rates across all express lanes, the Atlanta newspaper reported. It’s not expected to have an immediate impact on I-75, but could affect I-85 commuters when the new policy takes effect Monday.
“Who gets to make these decisions without the input of the taxpayers that are footing the bill?” said McDonough resident John Alton.
The change in tolls comes as Georgia prepares to open 30 new miles of express lanes on I-75 and I-575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties. They’re part of a planned 120-network of express lanes that will eventually include the northern half of the Perimeter and Georgia 400.
The express lanes are a key component of the state’s plans to address metro Atlanta’s often-jammed freeways. The idea is that motorists who use those lanes will be able to travel at least 45 mph — if they’re willing to pay a toll.
In order to make that happen, the authority raises the toll as traffic gets worse. The aim is to raise it high enough to discourage some people from using the express lanes, which keeps traffic moving.