Afternoon traffic on I-75/85 in downtown Atlanta

Afternoon traffic on I-75/85 in downtown Atlanta / Flickr

Traffic can’t be avoided in Atlanta. But the newly constructed express lanes on I-75 aim to provide a smoother commute for the South Metro area.

"The general purpose lanes have improved congestion and the residents are happy to have a new choice for their commute," said Natalie Dale, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation. 

The I-75 South Metro Express lanes are reversible toll lanes that run for 12 miles from State Route 155 in Henry County to State Route 138 in Clayton County. The lanes operate Northbound toward Metro Atlanta from 12:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. during the week and are open to Northbound travel on the weekend.

The lanes operate Southbound towards the area south of metro Atlanta from 1:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. The lanes reverse on weekdays at 11:00 a.m. The reversal process takes about two hours.

The operating schedule changes during a special event. Over the weekend of March 3-5, a change in operation was made to accommodate the increase in traffic for the Folds of Honor Quick Trip 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. There was no overnight reversal of the lanes on Friday, March 3 and the lanes remained open Southbound all day Saturday March 4 through early afternoon March 5.

Usage of the toll lanes was up each day of last week. The jump in numbers on Friday night may have been people going to the race.

The South Metro Express lanes opened on January 28. During the first two weeks of operation, motorists who had a Peach Pass could use the toll lanes for free. WSBTV reported that the lanes had 24,000 users the first week and 30,000 the second week of operation.

The toll lanes had 21,420 users in the third week and 22,000 users in the fourth week.

"Overall, the express lanes have received positive feedback from the community," Dale said. 

GDOT is expecting the toll lanes to reach 7.9 million trips annually.

The complimentary period for the express lanes is over, but public transit providers as well as express and state registered van pools can use the lanes for free anytime. GDOT notes that the express lanes can benefit 700,000 potential bus riders. All other drivers who want to use the lanes must have a Peach Pass.

Although the Peach Pass is free, a minimum of $20 must be loaded on in. Peach Passes can be purchased online. Contact information as well as the year, make, model, and license plate of the vehicle is needed to open a peach pass account. An active credit or debit card is also required to purchase a Peach Pass.

Anyone who does not want to purchase a Peach Pass online can go to any CVS or Walgreens in Georgia to get a Pay n GO! Peach Pass account. This method does not require contact or vehicle information. Pay n GO! Peach Passes purchased at CVS or Walgreens come with a card reloader and must have a prepaid amount ranging from $20-$500 loaded onto the card.

I-75 South estimated trips

I-75 South estimated trips / Georgia Department of Transportation