ACWORTH — State and local officials christened a new park-and-ride lot that will provide bus service from Acworth to downtown Atlanta on Friday, saying it will offer quick access to the city and reduce congestion on Interstate 75.

The Hickory Grove Park and Ride Lot, located on Hickory Grove Road right off I-75, will service two routes of the Xpress, a bus service operated by the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority (ATL).

The $8 million lot has 522 parking spots, an assortment of benches and three bus shelters. The buses themselves are equipped with charging ports and Wi-Fi for commuters.

Two Xpress Routes — 484 and 485 — are connected to the lot. Officials believe trips will be quicker than driving in the regular lanes because the buses will use I-75’s Northwest Corridor Express Lanes, the roughly 30 miles of reversible toll lane that runs from Hickory Grove Road to Akers Mill Road in Cumberland.

Routes 484 and 485 will both run continuously from Acworth to the heart of Atlanta. The routes both have nine stops intown — 484 services Midtown stops while 485 services downtown stops.

Service from the lot begins Monday and will be available weekdays during peak morning and evening hours. Full schedules can be found at xpressga.com.

Chris Tomlinson, executive director of the State Roadway and Toll Authority, announced that service will be free for the first four months. Officials hope the fare-free “introductory period” will attract new riders who might otherwise not consider public transit. After Sept. 1, fares will be $3-4 per trip.

The project cost was $8.3 million, which was 80% funded by a federal grant aimed at reducing congestion, with 20% coming from the state. The 22-acre piece of land was deeded to the SRTA from the state Department of Transportation at no cost, SRTA officials said.

“We want to make our interstate safer, cheaper and more efficient,” Cobb Chairwoman Lisa Cupid said at the ribbon-cutting event. “We want to save lives, gas and time. We want our residents to be able to access their jobs quickly and efficiently, so they can be more productive, so they can lower their stress and increase their quality of life.”

Cupid hopes the line will make residents of north Cobb, Cherokee and Bartow counties rethink their commutes.

Charlie Sutlive, board chairman of the ATL, said the project’s completion was well-timed as traffic and drivers return to the roads and the pandemic wanes.

“These buses do take health and safety practices very seriously,” Sutlive added. “There’s technology on board, air ionizers, in every bus — part of the AC system that literally charge the air and neutralize the virus and germs.”

The lot, Sutlive said, has the potential to provide service for other transit systems, such as CobbLinc. He hopes in the future it could serve locations such as Kennesaw State University and Town Center.

Cobb commissioners hope to put a referendum on the ballot in 2022 that would fund new transit projects. A project list will likely be created after the county’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan is completed later this year, and could include similar park-and-ride lots.

“Considering the nexus that the downtown area has, the vitality of the region, services like this are very important,” Cupid told the MDJ. “If you have the opportunity to replicate it, I think it just helps to increase mobility and economic development.”

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