Feds deny I-85 HOT lane waiver - CBS46 News

Feds deny I-85 HOT lane waiver

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GWINNETT COUNTY, GA (CBS46) -

The U.S. Department of Transportation has denied Georgia's request for a waiver to allow two-person carpools in the I-85 HOT lanes.

Currently, vehicles must have three or more people to use the High Occupancy Toll lanes for free.

"I wasn't surprised," said Howard Rodgers, co-founder of stolenlanes.org, a coalition that opposes the toll lanes.  He and others now plan to travel to Washington to talk with federal officials.

In a letter to state transportation leaders, the U.S. DOT wrote, "The HOT lane has only been operating for a brief period, and we believe it is too early to evaluate its effectiveness at this time."

The letter also said the toll rates and drivers' unfamiliarity with the lanes may be contributing to their low use.

Rodgers' group said the HOT lanes have created more congestion in the non-toll lanes and increased commute times.

"The next course of action is to go petition the federal government and take the voice of Georgia to them, instead of waiting for them to come down to us," said Rodgers.

Georgia's Clean Air Campaign said the waiver denial may prompt more commuters to consider carpooling.  The agency has placed 36 drivers in carpools since the HOT lanes opened.

"We've got several more commuters that were sort of on the fence, waiting to find out when this new development would come down from the feds," said spokesman Brian Carr. "So now, we're probably able to help them," Carr added.

Rodgers is shocked by the low number of people who have opted to carpool.

"Thirty-six? That's a good joke," Rodgers said. "The feds have the ability to suspend the program.  They also have the ability to call the program a failure and just wipe it off the books."

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