Georgia DOT held a virtual open house in late 2020 offering the public its first look at the proposed I-75 Commercial Vehicle Lanes project. Now, GDOT published their response to submitted comments.
During the comment period, the state received a total of 98 comments. Out of the 98 comments, 43 were in support of the project, 17 were opposed, 16 were uncommitted, and 22 expressed conditional support.
The I-75 Commercial Vehicle Lanes (CVL) project proposes to construct two northbound barrier-separated toll-free lanes for exclusive use by tractor-trailers and other commercial vehicles. The project extends between I-475 in Macon to the vicinity of state routes 20 & 155 in McDonough.
The current cost estimate for the truck lanes project measures between $1.23 billion to $1.36 billion. This includes preliminary design, right of way acquisition and construction. Georgia DOT intends to enter into a design-build-finance agreement for the project. The selected contractor will be responsible for the project’s final design, construction and long-term maintenance. The state plans to select the project developer in the first quarter of 2023.
GDOT is planning a second opportunity for public input during the fourth quarter of 2021. Construction is presently scheduled to start in quarter two of 2024. Substantial completion is slated for 2027, though some portions of the project may open sooner.
The project is part of Georgia’s Major Mobility Investment Program (MMIP) consisting of eleven “mega projects” throughout the state. The largest task — broken into four segments — will construct express lanes on the north half of I-285. Other projects include widening I-85 in northeast Georgia and reconstructing I-16 @ I-95 in Savannah. Moreover, the I-20 @ I-285 interchanges on either side of Atlanta are slated for rebuilds.
Truck Lanes Terminus
Georgia DOT received several comments about the project’s northern and southern terminus. The project proposes to end the CVLs in the vicinity of Bethlehem Road in Locust Grove. Then, an auxiliary lane between Bethlehem Road and state route 155 provides two miles for tractor-trailers to merge out of the CVLs into the general purpose lanes. The state also plans to build an auxiliary lane on I-75 North from state route 155 to state route 20.
The state received comments about extending the project north to I-675 or state route 138. In the state’s response, extending the lanes is “cost prohibitive and would result in extensive impacts to the adjacent developed areas.” SR 155 and SR 20 provide a logical northern terminus in the heart of the Henry County Freight Cluster. Additionally, the I-75 South Metro Express Lanes provide additional peak-hour capacity starting at SR 155 to I-675.
On the south end of the project, the I-75 CVLs does not propose truck lanes between I-16 and I-475. Truck lanes in this area would require study and funding under a separate project.
GDOT received comments requesting additional lanes for all users. The decision to build dedicated lanes for commercial vehicles achieves a safety goal of reducing interactions between tractor-trailers and general motorists. Building new general purpose lanes instead would forgo this safety goal. Further, by moving commercial vehicles to new lanes, the project removes 30% of traffic off the general purpose lanes.
Subsequently, comments asked why the truck lanes are limited to northbound. Georgia DOT selected northbound lanes because, in the southbound direction, data shows lower crash rates, injury rates, fatality rates and future traffic growth rates. The project does not preclude building future southbound lanes, though GDOT has identified no funding for their construction.
Finally, a comment suggested convert the I-75 express lanes in Henry County to truck only lanes. Before building the lanes, a concept study identified express lanes as the preferred alternative over truck lanes. Furthermore, converting the lanes for use by tractor-trailers would introduce conflicts between slower moving trucks and faster motorists in the left lane upon entry or exit. This creates a safety hazard raising the potential for crashes. There would also be the issue of identifying funds to cover the approximately $100 million dollar project debt. The debt repayment ends in 2049 paid through toll collections.
The state’s full comment report is available on the project website under resources. Credit for the featured image to Georgia DOT.
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