No cars allowed: Georgia proposes one-of-a-kind congestion solution

Keeping trucks and cars on their own separate highway? Sounds like a $1.8 billion plan. (Photo: Shutterstock)

In light of the current infrastructure discussions, and with the recent release of the Reason Foundation’s 23rd annual Highway Report, one unique vision for congestion improvement comes out of Georgia: a toll-free, truck-only highway running through one of the most congested corridors in the state.

Atlanta’s local WABE Radio reports that the toll-free highway would stretch 40 miles (65 kilometers) from metro Atlanta to Macon (northbound only). It would give trucks their own separate roadway, which would have its own exits and entrances, John Hibbard, the Georgia DOT’s operations director, said.

4,317 people died in crashes where large trucks were involved in 2016, according to the most recent federal statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A separate highway for trucks could boost safety for both regular cars and freight operators, according to GDOT’s fact sheet on what’s called the I-75 Commercial Vehicle Lanes. The project is “projected to reduce delay on I-75 by 40 percent in 2030” and could also lower maintenance costs on the lanes for passenger cars.

Atlanta-area truckers have shown support for the project. WABE Radio spoke to trucker Afori Pugh, who transports around 20,000 pounds of construction materials on his trips. He thinks a truck-only highway could “unclog a lot of the traffic.”

Georgia governor Nathan Deal also seems to support the project, saying the truck-only highway is “an important part of what our future transportation system should and will look like” in a Georgia Transportation Alliance meeting.

Timothy Brown, Managing Director for Supply Chain & Logistics Institute, tells FreightWaves, “In the case of Georgia, and that stretch, I think it may make sense. The ports are doubling capacity — much of which would flow along that stretch. That stretch also handles Florida to the Midwest travel. And the stretch is now in the Metro Area traffic. So, with so much going on in this pipeline, and trucks having a constraining impact — separating them on that stretch may make sense.”

But critics say the high cost of $1.8 billion is troubling.

Matt Casale is a transportation analyst with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. His team listed the state’s truck-only lanes among the worst highway projects in America in 2017, saying it “would represent a giveaway to the trucking industry, while undermining a rail-based approach to freight movement in Georgia that is intended to get trucks off the roads.”

The Reason Foundation’s recently released 23rd Annual Highway Report, lists Georgia as 18th overall in the nation in highway performance and cost-effectiveness.

 Where Georgia ranks in each of the 11 researched categories of the Reason Foundation. (Photo: Reason Foundation)
Where Georgia ranks in each of the 11 researched categories of the Reason Foundation. (Photo: Reason Foundation)

Georgia would ask for federal funds, but if the government doesn’t come through, Deal said the project could still move forward with state money, specifically because of the state’s Transportation Funding Act, passed in 2015. The act is paid for by an increase in fuel taxes.

“It’s really a gamble with the taxpayers’ money,” Casale said. “It’s a lot of taxpayer money, and it’s a lot of money to spend on something that we don’t know is going to work.”

This truck-only project is just one of 11 new projects under what the state calls the Major Mobility Investment Program.

GDOT could choose a general engineering consultant by the end of this year. The consultant would be expected to be in charge of project development and seek public input in the environmental process. Construction could commence by 2025. By 2030, GDOT plans to build more than 300 miles of new lanes.

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Chad Prevost

Chad is radio host and broadcast media specialist for FreightWaves.

One Comment

  1. This is not really a novel idea. California has had it on the south end of the grapevine for going on two decades. Something that I have never understood is why in congested urban areas the far left lane(s) are not designated as thru traffic lanes, since the majority of truck traffic is merely passing thru, this would keep us out of the way of local traffic that is getting on and off the freeway.

  2. I’m not one to look at other countries for ideas, but Ontario has the best. Use what you got, but fyi away with the car only lanes and divide the highway. Three lanes that are mainly for through traffic. With one exit for every four that exist to the outside lanes which allow access to all exits. Thus will greatly cut down on traffic problems. You will have express lanes for cars and especially trucks that are mostly passing through. While the outer highway is more for local traffic. This is and has been proven the best option. If you decide to do this and only allow cars like N.J. Then it’ll be a bigger mess than now.
    R. Criss

  3. I live in north metro Atlanta and truck traffic in not the issue. The sheer number of people who commute from the suburbs to downtown is the issue. Between 2 and 3 million people commute and the roadways are too small and outdated for the mass amount of traffic. And the current toll project that is going on is already costing tax payers and travelers money due to the fuel tax and the government spending. All the state wants to do is spend billions on unless road projects that patch, not fix. Needless to say travailing on interstate 75 is horrendous, avoid if you can.

  4. Sounds like Matt casale works for the railroad industry not the state, my biggest fear for something like this will be how long before some future politician decides to push tolls, and how well will it be maintained. Also if the area where trucks and passenger vehicles merge back together is not done properly the backups will be ridiculous all the time. With already tight hours of service rules on trucking it does not need a major time killer created in one if the busiest trucking lanes in america.

  5. Keep trucks left lane passing through, cars don’t have enough brain power to know how to merge… how bout building a complete by pass with only 4 exits around the whole city. I hate having to go around atl

  6. Need uper decks through atlanta with access to only other interstates all three interstates would solve most congestion problems

  7. The real reason as most of us seasoned drivers know is this, its the four wheelers! When interstates were first built they were designed for commercial motor vehicles and military convoys only! When automobiles were allowed to use them is when the problem began! But the did that to alleviate the congestion in small towns because so many people were allowed to live in certain areas. The core problem now is its gotten to be to big of a problem and they cant fix it. So the blame gets thrown on us as demand for products in these towns steadily increases. Truckers are out there doing a job and often enough missing time with their families all in the name of feeding and clothing yours! What we need is respect for what we must do. And better training in many cases. I cirrently know of companies out there that are running drivers thru schooling, and then team them with another driver with the exact same amount of experience, and that is ludicrous! Two people that dont know how to operate a truck should never be put together to do the job. And those companies every one should be forced to shut down and banned worldwide from ever operating another company again of that magnitude! This whole business is a joke now and why we are so disrespected today as we are! The only oossible cure to this problem is truck only lanes and virtually unregulated. But even that has problems and i guarentee if they do it four wheelers will me on them before they get the pavement set up! This world we live in today is to fast paced over all and that is because of everything else and not trucks, but guess who gets the blame! Look at the little towns that are rapidly disappearing out there, we drive to and thru those also, and people never get in a hurry, speed limits and time allow for them to not have to hurry, they may only have one sheriff and a deputy but thats all they need. Accidents are almost non existent in those areas because its the easy life, heck the only time you get in a hurry is if your wife is having a baby or something then you often get an escort to the hospital instead of a ticket for speeding! And i could throw in many more things that are caused by all this govt crap but i wont because this a trucking page!!!