GA 400 shoulder opens to commuters

1:10 PM, May 14, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- GA 400 commuters are getting a bit of a break, at least on a five-and-a-half-mile stretch. 

PHOTOS | Riding along GA 400 shoulder

As of 6:30 a.m. Monday, southbound drivers are able to use the right shoulder lane from Holcomb Bridge Road down to the North Springs MARTA Station exit as an extra travel lane. 

Georgia DOT workers were still putting up new signs on Tuesday, some taped over, to advertise the new lane and the fact that it will only be legal from 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. Monday through Friday.

The DOT has had plans for just such an extra lane for years, but Commissioner Keith Golden said they never became reality until Nathan Deal became governor.

The former Georgia congressman mentioned that he had seen shoulder and emergency lanes used during rush hour around Washington, D.C. years ago.

Now Georgia's DOT will experiment with them along this southbound stretch of GA 400 until next fall.

Commissioner Golden doesn't predict any huge difference in commute times, but hopes it will speed things up some in that area.

He also admits it will take drivers a while to get used to the new lane, which may not work out after all.

"I think we've gotta let motorists get acclimated to that particular change in behavior," Golden told reporters Tuesday.

"This is a low cost solution and if it's a failure, our backup plan is to pull the signs up and remove it," he added.

Some local emergency agencies, like Sandy Springs' Police Chief, have expressed concerns that putting traffic into the shoulder lane might slow down emergency vehicles who use it or create a hazard with stalled or wrecked vehicles.

The DOT said it has had several meetings with Sandy Springs and Roswell officials to discuss their concerns.

One result is the addition of seven more emergency pull off areas, bringing to nine the total along the five-and-half mile section.

They also plan to check and double check the shoulder lane each weekday morning before it opens.

"We're going to patrol the route two times in the morning prior to opening and HERO (units) are going to clear the lane of vehicles and debris," said the DOT's Kathy Zahul.

Drivers are also warned not to use the shoulder lane outside of the new approved hours.

If they do, they could face a misdemeanor charge that carries up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

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