The State Road and Tollway Authority and the Georgia Department of Transportation hosted a demonstration Friday of warning gates that will be set at the entrance points to the new Interstate 75 reverse express lanes to prevent drivers from accessing the lanes when they are closed.
The gates will keep drivers off the lanes while they are closed to prepare for the reversed flow of traffic and ensure drivers do not access the lanes travelling in the wrong direction, according to the agencies.
The South Metro Express Lanes, expected to improve daily commute traffic in the area, are designed to funnel motorists northbound on weekdays during the morning commute and reverse to flow southbound in the afternoon. The southbound switch will begin around 11 a.m. each day and the system will reverse to again flow northbound around 10:30 p.m.
GDOT expects the reversal process to take about two hours, during which time HERO units on the ground and a system of color and thermal cameras monitored 24/7 by operators at the Traffic Management Center will help operators ensure the lanes are free of any obstacles and are cleared to make the switch.
At each access toll point, drivers will first be alerted of the lanes’ status by a series of overhead electronic signs. GDOT and SRTA are encouraging drivers to pay attention to these signs when attempting to access the lanes to prevent any accidents.
Drivers should take the electronic signals as seriously as they would a railroad crossing, authorities said.
“When a sign says closed, you can be sure it’s closed,” Matt Markham, director of external affairs at the State Road and Tollway Authority, said at the demonstration Friday.
Each access lane will house a series of gates depending on its length. Motorists can access the express system at Ga. Highway 155 between Ga. Highway 20/Hampton Road, Mt. Carmel Bridge for those already on I-75, and a new entrance ramp built at Jonesboro Road. The express lanes merge back into regular I-75 traffic just after I-675.
The last gate to close on the access lanes is a steel resistance gate, which engineers said will act as a crash barrier.
The 12–mile express lane system is currently under construction between the northbound and southbound general purpose lanes of I-75, stretching from Ga. 155 near Locust Grove to Ga. Highway 138 at Interstate 675.
SRTA expects the lanes will be open and fully operational by the end of Janurary.