Non-TSPLOST projects might impact commute

By Ron Sifen

Two important transportation projects are moving forward that may affect your commute.

* I-75 / I-575 Northwest Corridor Project (NWCP) is the I-75 reversible toll lanes project that is widely misunderstood. It is nearing finalization. Construction could begin in 2012. It is a public private partnership. The NWCP is different from the I-85 toll lanes fiasco. This project does not take away any existing lanes. The NWCP is different than reversible center turn lanes. It will not be in the center of I-75. It will not touch any existing I-75 lanes.

The NWCP will build two entirely new lanes (but only one north of Town Center). From I-575 to I-285 it will be a separate parallel two-lane highway on the west side of I-75. In the morning, both lanes will run southbound. In the afternoon and evening both lanes will run northbound. The lanes will be shut down completely for an hour or more to transition the direction. Safeguards will be in place to prevent anyone from entering in the wrong direction.

It will add two lanes of capacity in the rush-hour direction, without removing any capacity from the existing lanes.

Unlike the I-85 fiasco, the NWCP will not force any additional traffic into existing lanes. GDOT has clearly learned from the I-85 toll lanes fiasco (as well as the high utilization of the Ga. 400 toll road). They will attempt to price the tolls to assure good utilization.

The NWCP is clearly one of the most cost-effective projects for alleviating traffic congestion that is currently moving forward anywhere in Georgia.

And if you don’t want to pay the tolls, then you can continue to ride in the free general purpose lanes, and you will still get the benefit of less traffic congestion in the free general purpose lanes, because somebody else was willing to pay the toll. The NWCP will be a true win-win.

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* Revive285 is a project whose purpose is supposed to be to alleviate traffic congestion on the top end of I-285 between Cobb Parkway and I-85 (Spaghetti Junction).

Revive285 has been narrowed down to the three finalist potential alternatives. Alternatives 4 and 6-A will dramatically reduce traffic congestion. However, Alternative 6-B is actually worse than what was perpetrated on the I-85 toll lanes.

On I-85 they took away a free HOV lane and converted it to toll, reducing traffic in that lane, and forcing additional traffic into the remaining free general purpose lanes.

Alternative 6-B proposes to take away an existing free general purpose lane in each direction and convert them to toll lanes. I have been warning for the last three years that forcing more traffic into the remaining free general purpose lanes will make traffic worse in the free general purpose lanes. Email to oppose Alternative 6-B. Please urge GDOT not to repeat the I-85 toll lanes fiasco, and do not force any additional traffic into any general purpose lanes.

There are also two non-traditional monorail concepts in the news recently. Both would utilize intriguing new technologies that might dramatically reduce construction costs as well as operating and maintenance costs.

* Either Maglev or High Road may eventually prove to be superior alternatives to light rail. I have looked at both of these proposals. Both offer some important advantages. Neither appears to have covered all of the issues that need to be addressed. Both may be making some assumptions that may turn out to be wrong. I do not think that either one is ready for implementation now.

That said, both of these have phenomenal potential. And both may be able to fix everything that needs to be fixed.

In several of my previous columns, I have discussed some major obstacles for the light rail proposal. Well, here is one more. All of the transit projects on the T-SPLOST projects list have a collective massive potential fatal flaw. Even if all of the identified technical problems for light rail can be fixed, and even if the region can come up with enough money to actually build them, there is absolutely no realistic source of future funding to sustain long-term future operations and maintenance, without massive future tax increases.

The reason we need to explore High Road and Maglev is that these concepts may be the only possible solution that can sustain long-term operations and maintenance without huge tax increases. Both propose automated systems whose operating and maintenance costs would likely be a tiny fraction of the cost of operating and maintaining light rail.

Right now, I think Maglev is ahead of High Road. Neither is ready to go today. I can’t guarantee that either can be totally fixed, but I suspect that both might be fixable, and either one might ultimately be a superior solution for both commuters and taxpayers.

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