A roadway project aimed at re-imagining Georgia's highway system hit the ground running in Forsyth County last week with a public information open house hosted at the Forsyth County Conference Center.
The Georgia Department of Transportation hosted its third open house March 5 concerning the Ga. 400 Express Lanes, which were announced by GDOT in June 2018.
At the event, Forsyth County residents got their first look at plans and maps of the $184 million project, which will add two express lanes on each side of Ga. 400 from the North Springs Marta Station in Sandy Springs to McGinnis Ferry Road and one express lane in each direction from McGinnis Ferry to McFarland Parkway.
Officials say that the new express lanes will be optional toll lanes built along the existing roadway, giving drivers a new choice to bypass congestion, hopefully reducing traffic delays by 18 percent.
At the open house, project manager and GDOT consultant Michael Nader said that this new choice for residents will go beyond congestion and traffic problems, boosting economic growth by allowing people to move more freely and reliably within the state.
"In simple terms, it provides a choice of mobility,” Nader said. "It provides opportunities for employers to come into the region, because now not only do you have reliable trip time corridors, but you also have transit on the corridors.”
According to GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale, the proposed Ga. 400 Express Lanes are just one of 11 different projects that GDOT has proposed around the state, which include interstate widening projects, major interchange projects, commercial vehicle lanes and other major express lanes.
Dale said that the Ga. 400 Express Lane Project was predicated on a need expressed by the community to increase mobility, while maintaining their larger commitment to interconnect the metro Atlanta area.
"You can’t just build extra lanes, or they just become congested, you're not really solving a problem," she said. "But what we saw with the express lane system, by adding that capacity, we'd have an interconnected express lane system through the metro Atlanta area."
Dale said at this very early stage in the process, it's imperative to get the project concept out to the Georgia community to get feedback and answer any concerns they might have.
"Over the past two years we've had about 150 meetings with community groups," Dale said. "So we've been out in the community talking about this, we've been having the conversation, that led to this project development process.”
She said that their next step will be to go back to the drawing board to assess what impacts to the community can be mitigated before coming back to the community with a final draft of the project in about 18 months. Once the project receives federal approval, Dale said that they will ideally break ground in 2021 with a projected opening in 2024 to 2026.