ATLANTA, GA (WBTV) - Drivers in the Atlanta area are using the toll lanes on I-85/75 more than ever before but the increased usage comes with a price.
It can cost as much as $13.95 to drive the 16-mile stretch of toll lane into Downtown Atlanta.
The lanes opened five years ago and, like the lanes currently under construction along I-77, adjust their price based on the amount of traffic currently in the lanes. The more vehicles in the lanes, the higher the price.
By law, it cannot cost more than $13.95 to drive the length of the lanes. It often costs less than, depending on the amount of traffic currently in the lane.
For the Atlanta lanes, the goal is to keep cars moving at a minimum speed of 45 miles per hour. The lanes along I-77 will have a goal of maintaining a minimum speed of around 55 miles per hour.
"As the popularity of the lanes has increased, in order to try and keep the traffic flowing through that lane we have seen a toll increase recently," said Matt Markham with the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority.
The toll lanes in Atlanta were built by the state and are managed by a state agency. The I-77 toll lane project, by contract, is being built and managed by a private Spanish company called Cintra.
Unlike the Atlanta express lanes, though, there is not a limit on how much Cintra can charge drivers to use the I-77 express lanes.
That means Charlotte-area drivers could be made to pay more than the $13.95 cap currently in place in Atlanta if many cars are using the lanes.
Cintra addresses the question about what would keep the company from setting prohibitively high rates for drivers on its website.
"There is no incentive for the private operator to set rates at prohibitively high levels because that would deter drivers from using the lanes. Toll rates will be determined by demand in order to maintain reliable travel."
Spokesmen for the I-77 lanes have said the purpose of the project is to provide an alternative route for drivers that do not want to sit in the often-clogged free lanes but have stopped short of saying it will ease congestion along the thoroughfare.
Similarly, Markham, with the Georgia Regional Transit Authority, said the Atlanta-area lanes are not intended to provide around-the-clock congestion relief.
"It is providing an option that does ease some congestion at certain times of the day," he said.