Macon-to-Atlanta truck lanes would be unprecedented


March 9, 2016 Jackson – Motorists, including many trucks, travel on I-75 northbound to Atlanta as seen from the Barnesville-Jackson Road overpass in Jackson. While metro Atlantans will have to pay to use the interstate capacity planned for I-75, I-285, Ga. 400, the new truck-only lanes proposed for I-75 between Macon and Atlanta will add new capacity at no cost to the freight industry.  HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

The $2 billion proposed truck lanes to be built on I-75 between Macon and McDonough will be the first of its kind in the United States.

The two barrier separated lanes — 40 miles of them — will be free for truckers to use, and they will go only in the northbound direction toward Atlanta. Truck traffic from the port of Savannah to Atlanta along I-16 and I-75 is expected to double or even triple in coming years.

Truck lanes exist on the New Jersey Turnpike, but there are some key differences. Cars are permitted to use the turnpike truck lanes, and all traffic is tolled.

Elsewhere in the country, there are a few short segments of truck lanes that are primarily used as bypasses or as connectors to or from a port. But nothing approaching the size and scope of what Georgia wants to build.

To read more about why the Georgia Department of Transportation is pursuing this unprecedented project, and staking $2 billion on its success, check out the in-depth and exclusive coverage of the issue in Sunday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

READ MORE: Truck lanes for I-75 a $2 billion gamble.


Reader Comments 0


Let's see if I have this correct.

Two new lanes of highway pavement for trucks only.

Running 40 miles from Macon to McDonough.

The goal, to separate trucks from automobiles along a stretch of roadway that has a lot hills, which change the flow of those trucks on the existing roadway.  

And at the end of the two lane, trucks only highway at McDonough?

A requirement to merge back onto existing roadways with all that automobile traffic - and drive on through and around metro Atlanta.

Thus, trucks are separated from, and then funneled into, all other traffic.

Existing choke points where traffic merges create significant traffic backups on metro Atlanta interstates (oh, let's say for instance, the merge of I-75 south with I-675 south, recently "improved" and still creating monstrous backups; just north of McDonough, isn't it?  just a coincidence) don't seem to provide sufficient experiential input for GADOT that merging truck and non-truck traffic will create a traffic bottleneck.

It is a constant of physics: pour a substance into a funnel and the substance slows down and backs up.

Examples on metro Atlanta interstates:

Any exit ramp from one interstate to another, that reduces the number of lanes from two to one to none, especially without sufficient space to merge at speed.  Ah, and doing so while on a curve.

GA 400 merging with I-85 (now with added traffic use as the result of drivers "enjoying" the non-tolled, shorter drive).

I-75 south and I-85 south, a daily backup.

The I-75/85 north connector merging with I-20 traffic and adding downtown traffic.

Is anyone at GADOT paying attention?

Is anyone at AJC interested in asking in-depth questions?

Rather than the truck-only roadway, why not extend I-16 to the Alabama border?

Patience please.  Work with me here.  Metro Atlanta is the funnel for all interstate traffic from Detroit west to St. Louis and Kansas City.  And yet, while the size and number of truck rigs have exploded in the last 30 years (combined with a doubling of the "local" metro Atlanta population), while no noticeable change has occurred to roadways around and through Atlanta.

But some of that north/south traffic can be shifted, lessening the traffic in metro Atlanta and improving the travel times for north/south traffic.

Mississippi and Alabama have almost completed I-22 from the Tennessee border to I-65 just north of Birmingham (the drive from Atlanta to Memphis is now quicker and shorter through Birmingham, rather than Nashville, reducing the trip from 8 hours to 6.5).  Extending I-16 to the Alabama border near LaGrange will entice Alabama to connect that with interstates to Birmingham.  Looking at a map, this should take traffic from west of Chicago away from the roadways of Atlanta (even if the distance is longer, there will be shorter drive times, while avoiding metro Atlanta tie-ups and Monteagle mountain on I-24 north of Chattanooga). 

I admit that this may negatively impact fuel sales (and tax receipts) and support services in and around metro Atlanta.  However, the reduction in expected traffic would certainly be worth it.

Using $2 billion to build a 40 mile, two lane road (25% of the total to be received from last year's fuel based "tax hike"), is folly in the extreme.  Change the words "40 mile, two lane road" for trucks only to "40 mile extension of MARTA train tracks" to northern Fulton County and southeast Dekalb County and every legislator in the state cries out "Never!  Insanity!  Waste! Far too expensive for so few who will benefit!"