ATLANTA - Saturday, the I-85 express lanes open for business - which will likely lead to confusion for plenty of motorists.
The Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority calls the new lanes a demonstration project.
The rules for motorists are confusing, especially for drivers who are used to the HOV lanes that have been around for years on Metro Atlanta's highways.
A single motorist with a Peach Pass can ride in the new Express Lanes at a cost of anywhere from 10 to 90 cents per mile, depending on the time of day and amount of traffic on the highway. Single motorists heading southbound that run from the new Express Lanes into the regular HOV lanes at Spaghetti Junction will need to hop out at that point to keep from running afoul of the traditional HOV rules that continue southward from there.
With two people in the car, motorists entering the Express Lanes can keep driving, but they will also have to pay a toll. When they get to I-285, they can stay in the HOV lanes, since they've already got two people in the car.
"They will have to pay a toll in the Express Lane but they can continue in the HOV lanes because they are meeting the 2+ HOV requirements," said the Georgia Tollway Authority's Malika Wilkins.
Motorists riding three-deep get to ride in the new Express Lanes for free - and of course, since they also have the required number of people in the car, they get to keep right on riding in the HOV lanes when they get to the Perimeter.
"They can actually drive that entire stretch of the Express Lanes for free and they can also continue on it into the HOV lanes because they are meeting the HOV requirement," Wilkins said.
Motorists who want to use the new lanes need to get a Peach Pass from the tollway authority, at a cost of $20. Motorists who use the lanes and get caught by the ever-present cameras without a pass will have to pay a $25 fine, plus the cost of the toll.
Confusing? Yes. But the tollway authority says there will be a grace period before they start charging motorists for using the lanes.