No new or specific details about the I-285 toll lanes project were revealed at a May 15 Georgia Department of Transportation meeting held in Dunwoody, but the state agency did fulfill a requirement to officially close out the “Revive285” project that began in 2006.
A future round of public meetings that will include detailed maps of what properties could be taken are expected to occur in early 2020.
Dubbed by GDOT as a “conversation” meeting about the planned toll lanes along the top end of I-285, the one held Tuesday afternoon at St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church attracted about 60 people. Four more similar meetings are scheduled throughout May in Smyrna, Sandy Springs, Brookhaven and another one in Dunwoody.
GDOT program manager Tim Matthews went over a half-hour PowerPoint presentation that presented the basics of the planned toll lanes, called “express lanes” or “managed lanes,” including that they are part of a statewide Major Mobility Investment Program.
In metro Atlanta, the MMIP projects include toll lanes along the east, west and top end of I-285 and on Ga. 400. The construction taking place now as part of the Transform 285/400 interchange project was part of the Revive285 project and is separate from the toll lanes projects.
The I-285 project would construct toll lanes along the interstate from west of Paces Ferry Road in Cobb County to Henderson Road in DeKalb County, and a section along Ga. 400 from south of the Glenridge Connector to the North Springs MARTA Station.
State officials deemed toll lanes, including elevated toll lanes, a better option than widening I-285 because “we just can’t widen our way out of congestion,” Matthews said.
The notorious congestion on I-285 is expected to be relieved by giving motorists the option to pay to use the toll lanes, Matthews said. Currently, motorists try to avoid I-285 traffic by cutting through surface streets in cities such as Sandy Springs and Dunwoody, he said.
Matthews did not take questions and instead attendees were directed to ask questions from representatives standing at different tables covering such topics the necessary environmental study to be undertaken and the right-of-way acquisition process.
Attendees were also encouraged to fill out “communications surveys” with their thoughts on the project.
The May 15 meeting also checked off a requirement of notifying the public that GDOT was officially closing out the Revive285 project. GDOT is rescinding its “Notice of Intent” filed in 2006 with the Federal Highway Administration that initiated environmental studies for projects under the Revive285 banner. There were studies for Revive285 conducted between 2006 and 2013, according to GDOT spokesperson Natalie Dale. All planning ended in 2013 due to lack of funding, she said. Toll lanes were included as part of the alternatives proposed in Revive285.
The NOI for the I-285 top end toll lanes project is anticipated to be released in September. Initial studies have already started for the I-285 top end toll lanes project.
Revive 285 was a project that included building approximately 12 miles of two new express lanes along both sides of I-285 from I-75 in Cobb County to I-85 in DeKalb County, essentially the same route as the new I-285 top end-end toll lanes project. Relieving traffic congestion was also the main goal of the project and studies building high-occupancy vehicle lanes, high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, truck only lanes (TOL), bus rapid transit (BRT), heavy rail and light rail.
The final Revive 285 project is the Transform 285/400 interchange that is expected to be completed by next year. Other Revive 285 projects included the construction of the Ashford-Dunwoody Road diverging diamond interchange and the Riverside Drive roundabout.
The I-285 toll lanes project has become increasingly controversial as more impacts have become known. Although GDOT has told the public the plans are too conceptual to show any details, there have been repeated revelations of early property purchases based on detailed designs shown to governments, property owners and special interest groups. The latest example is that GDOT took 5 acres of Doraville’s gigantic Assembly mixed-use redevelopment for a massive toll lane interchange on I-285 18 months ago.
Matthew also confirmed that 300 properties, or “parcels,” could be impacted by the new toll lanes. He said the number was determined by looking at a tax parcel map between west of Paces Ferry Road to Henderson Road and selecting those properties adjacent to and close to the interstate. The number is not a final figure, he said. The approximate 300 number goes back to 2016 as part of the Revive 285 project.
The Power Point presentation: