Commercial Vehicle-Only Lanes Coming to Georgia

Jay Roberts

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

We all experience the frustrations of traffic congestion. And if you’ve driven I-75 north from Macon you’ve no doubt experienced some of the worst gridlock in Georgia. The corridor, dominated by truck traffic, is home to almost daily traffic snarls due to crashes, stalls, overturned trucks and spills. These incidents can be deadly, tie up traffic for hours, make trip times unpredictable, and result in huge costs in terms of time, wages, jobs, health, property damage – and lives lost.

Trucks carry 75 percent of the freight that comes into Georgia. The Port of Savannah continues to expand and shatter records for processing shipping containers. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the busiest and most efficient airport in the world, is expanding cargo operations. And the state’s population continues to grow. These will all contribute to a substantial increase in the volume of truck traffic in Georgia in the coming years. In fact, GDOT expects truck traffic will double by 2040.

That’s why the Georgia Department of Transportation is planning the I-75 Commercial Vehicle Lanes project to add two commercial vehicle-only lanes northbound along I-75. The non-tolled lanes will run the 40 miles from I-75/475 in Macon to SR 155 in McDonough, southeast of metro Atlanta. The commercial vehicle lanes, barrier-separated from the general purpose lanes, will have their own entrances and exits. Based on travel demand modeling analyses we expect that, in contrast to doing nothing, the dedicated lanes will reduce delays on I-75 North by 40 percent in 2030.

These commercial vehicle lanes would be the first of their kind in the United States. While short segments of truck only lanes exit some ports in California and New Jersey, nowhere are there commercial vehicle lanes of the magnitude planned in Georgia. GDOT is concentrating on northbound only for loaded trucks leaving the Port of Savannah and for trucks entering Georgia to get their products to their destinations.

Cars, trucks and high speeds can be a deadly mix. Taking truck traffic off I-75’s three general purpose lanes not only decreases congestion by freeing up those lanes for passenger vehicles, it also provides a huge safety benefit by eliminating the interaction between passenger vehicles and commercial trucks. And then there are the economic benefits of freeing up traffic flow.

GDOT expects to select a general engineering consultant by the end of 2018 who will manage project development and seek public input during the environmental process. As GDOT moves forward with engineering, environmental, design and right-of-way—which continue through 2023—we are evaluating freight and passenger vehicle movements, project limits, and the truck-only access and exit points. We are also looking to the future with technology infrastructure like fiber to accommodate platooning, where self-driving trucks closely follow each other and mutually communicate to improve safety, save costs with lower fuel consumption and less emissions, and boost traffic flow. Construction on the commercial vehicle-only lanes should start in 2025.

There are many questions from local communities along the route. As we progress, GDOT will share information with the public. A few questions can be answered now.

  • Why not impose a toll? The barrier-separated lanes enhance safety for all. By taking commercial traffic out of the general purpose lanes we are freeing up capacity and enhancing traffic flow as much for motorists as for truck drivers. It’s not just about commercial vehicles. It’s about everyone on that road.

  • How will the truck only entrances and exits affect me? GDOT’s central issue is to figure out where to allow trucks to enter and exit. There will be fewer truck access points than on a regular highway. The entrance and exits for passenger vehicles in the general purpose lanes will be unaffected.

The $1.8 billion I-75 Commercial Vehicle Lanes project is one of 11 initial projects in Georgia DOT’s $11 billion Major Mobility Investment Program. The projects, all anticipated to be under contract by 2026, will function together to increase capacity, improve the movement of freight, provide operational improvements and efficiencies, enhance safety and decrease travel times across Georgia.

The MMIP was made possible by the passage of the Transportation Funding Act of 2015, which yields the flexibility to leverage much-needed federal funding to begin addressing major investments in Georgia’s transportation network.

Safety is Georgia DOT’s number one priority. Improving reliability, congestion and connectivity - a primary goal. And freight and logistics are critical to Georgia’s economy. The I-75 Commercial Vehicle Lanes project is an innovative approach towards the future that addresses these critical objectives.