ATLANTA -- Traffic counts on Georgia 400 indicate thousands of new drivers since the removal of the tolls, but the Georgia Department of Transportation insists they don't yet have a complete picture.
Tony Peters' familiarity with Georgia 400 is more than most. He drives on 400 from Cumming to Buckhead. Since he no longer has to pay 50 cents for the ride, he senses that there are new faces around him.
"There is definitely a stop scenario that's happening there that wasn't there before," Peters said.
Traffic counts from December indicate a free 400 ride has attracted thousands of new commuters.
"We're looking at what those numbers mean knowing they don't show a complete story," said the Georgia DOT's Natalie Dale.
According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, between 58,000 and 61,000 drivers used Georgia 400 prior to the removal of the tolls. In the first full month of free rides on 400, DOT traffic counts show 67,000 to 70,000 commuters on Georgia 400 a day moving in each direction.
The DOT says the numbers could be skewed by the December holidays.
"A lot of shopping season at Lenox and Phipps Mall," Dale said. "We always see an increase around the holiday season in those areas."
There is also the possibility of drivers who plan to use a free 400, but are waiting until after the toll plaza is removed.
Many have wondered if there's been any work at all to remove the plaza since the tolls ended just before Thanksgiving last year. Crews are there removing the small stuff such as electrical equipment. Most of the work is going on in the tunnel beneath 400, where the coins used to fall.
The completion of the toll removal project is scheduled for fall of this year. The DOT says that's when they can get a complete picture of post-toll traffic.
"When our specialists look at the data that comes through they like to look at it in bigger chunks," Dale said. "It tells a more complete story."