More Peach Pass lanes on the way

More Peach Pass lanes on the way

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GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. -

It's not unusual for there to be more than 500,000 trips per month in the HOT lanes along I-85.

The State Road and Toll Authority is still issuing 600 new Peach Passes every week.

The numbers show a majority of drivers on I-85 are using their Peach Pass lanes three or less times a week, so it has become a great option on days when you want to try and avoid traffic.

The High Occupancy Toll, or HOT lanes moving through Gwinnett County continue to grow in popularity. In November, it logged the 10 millionth trip.

"Obviously when we first started, it was very controversial but I think that it's caught on," says Christopher Tomlinson, the Executive Director of the State Road and Tollway Authority.

It has proven to be a time saver for drivers like Jonathan Phelps. "In the evenings, I use it every day. In the mornings, Ii chose my battles with the pricing on it," explains Jonathan.

But what started as a great option, Jonathan says is now getting to be pretty pricey, with some stretches tripling in price.

"The pricing going northbound has really spiked here at Jimmy Carter. It used to be 0.30 to 0.40 cents, now almost every day it's a $1.00, $1.10 or $1.20.

So far the morning rush hour price has yet to exceed $8.50. Tomlinson says that's an average of 0.52 cents per mile but the approved price can go as high as 0.90 cents per mile.

"Right now we believe that the rates are at a level where it's effectively managing traffic, allowing people to get that more reliable trip time than compared to the general purpose lane," Tomlinson says.

"The value of the dollar isn't increasing, so I don't see how people can afford 0.90 cents a mile. I dont see people using it, so we would be back where we were before," believes Jonathan.

To calculate the price, Tomlinson says a computer uses a dynamic pricing algorithm to monitor sensors for speed, volume and motion.

"There's a lot of mathematics behind it, but at the end of the day, as congestion rises, so does the price; as the congestion eases the price comes down," Tomlinson adds.

Employees are also always watching the lanes and can control them manually if something happens. SRTA is also working to interconnect Peach Passes to bordering states, like Florida, and open up pay as you go machines for cash options in local stores.

In the next five years or so, more toll lanes will be coming to I-75 south of the city and to I-575 and I-75 in the northwest corridor. The new sections will be newly built, reversible north and south lanes with no occupancy requirements.

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