We all hate traffic and the congestion caused by too many vehicles on highways that have outlived their useful lives. At the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), we’re motorists and residents of our local communities just like you. It is our responsibility to find solutions that improve quality of life for our residents by providing workable transportation solutions that reduce congestion, shorten commutes and bring economic benefits to our communities.

I want to personally invite you to our public information open houses beginning this month for the Georgia 400 express lanes project. This project proposes to widen and construct express lanes on an about 16-mile section of 400 from the North Springs MARTA Station (Exit 5C) in Fulton County to about 0.9 miles north of McFarland Parkway (Exit 12) in Forsyth County. The proposed express lanes are expected to improve mobility and travel time reliability along the 400 corridor.

As GDOT continues to develop solutions for area residents and the region that will improve our mobility and reduce the traffic congestion we all experience, we need to hear from and collaborate with you. As you are aware, jobs and people continue to locate to the metro Atlanta region – up to an estimated 100,000 new residents annually.

The communities that make up north metro Atlanta are increasingly popular places to live, work and raise families. While most of us view this as a great thing, new residents and businesses also mean more traffic. All of us experience, generate and contribute to this traffic – and together, we need to determine how we can improve the traffic conditions that threaten to strangle our prosperity into the future.

GDOT has been working collaboratively with the Atlanta Regional Commission and other regional planning partners for nearly a decade to plan for a set of mobility solutions in metro Atlanta and statewide. One important solution is a network of interconnected express lanes that operate at free-flow speeds, even during the most congested commuting time periods.

Three express lanes projects are already open to traffic in metro Atlanta. The Northwest Corridor express lanes on Interstates 75 and 575, which opened in September, have cut commutes in half, greatly reduced travel times in all lanes and reduced the overall length of rush hour backups in the corridor by about one hour in both the morning and evening; in fact, we regularly hear words of thanks from motorists in the corridor to whom we’ve given back time in their day. The I-75 South Metro express lanes south of Atlanta, and the I-85 express lanes and express lanes extension have both greatly improved travel times in those corridors, reduced congestion and provided commuters with a choice in their daily commutes.

These express lanes are also providing reliable speeds for Xpress buses and other transit services currently in development by our regional transit partners, therefore serving not only passenger vehicles but also bus rapid transit riders. Express lanes for transit and automobiles is a critically important element of the transportation platform that our region must have to build a solid economy and a reliable transportation network into the future.

We understand that there are questions and concerns about the implementation process and potential impacts on our communities. Many of you have heard of the proposed 400 express lanes project, about which GDOT representatives have been meeting with various community groups, organizations, school leaders and homeowners for some time.

As a father and a homeowner, I understand that the unknowns associated with major transportation projects can give members of our communities pause as you wonder how these projects might impact you personally. At times like these, it is only natural to speculate on impacts. In order to share the tangible quality of life benefits on the project, discuss any concerns and ensure our mobility improvement projects avoid or minimize impacts to homeowners or the community, we must come together to talk.

That’s why I’m personally inviting you to our open houses regarding the 400 express lanes project Feb. 28 and March 5, 7 and 12. At these meetings, you’ll have the chance to view the plans for the entire 400 corridor, learn about potential impacts to properties abutting the highway and learn how the express lanes will enhance traffic flow and cut commute times even in the general purpose lanes. You’ll also be able to leave a comment regarding your thoughts on the proposed project. Comments aid our decision-making moving forward and become part of the official documentation on the project.

The project schedule is as follows:

o Feb. 28 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.: Hilton Garden Inn Atlanta North/Alpharetta, 4025 Windward Plaza, Alpharetta

o March 5: 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.: Forsyth Conference Center, 3410 Ronald Reagan Blvd., Cumming

o March 7 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.: DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Atlanta – Roswell, 1075 Holcomb Bridge Road, Roswell

o March 12 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.: City Springs, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs

You can find further information about our public meetings, the 400 express lanes project and our entire Georgia Express Lanes program at http://www.dot.ga.gov/DS/GEL/SR400. We’re building these projects to better serve you and the millions of metro Atlanta residents who deserve an improved transportation system. These projects are for you, and we look forward to seeing and hearing from you.

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