By Justin Reedy
Carpool lanes on Interstate 75 will be extended several miles into Clayton County thanks to $1 million in federal road funding.
The high occupancy vehicle, or HOV, lanes are express lanes that can only be used by transit vehicles or passenger cars and trucks with at least two riders. Officials say they help reduce traffic congestion and cut back on smog produced by vehicle emissions.
"It's a way to increase interstate capacity while at the same time encouraging people to use alternative transportation n such as carpooling or public transit n that will reduce the number of cars on the road," said Burt Brantley, a spokesman for the Georgia Department of Transportation.
HOV lanes on I-75 currently extend from downtown Atlanta to Aviation Boulevard in northern Clayton County. This funding would pay for extending the carpool lanes southward to Ga. Highway 54 in Morrow.
Jonesboro resident David Clark, who drives to Atlanta for his job, says he and many other south side commuters don't utilize the HOV lanes.
"I don't use the HOV lanes because the majority of my business travel is done alone, and I personally feel that the majority of other folks don't use them that much," Clark said. "The support isn't there."
Because of that lack of interest, Clark doesn't think extending the HOV lanes will help reduce congestion on the south side.
"I don't think it'll change the nature of traffic," he said. "I bounce off the dollar value and what it'll bring, and I just don't think it's worth it."
But Brantley says HOV lanes have been helpful in other areas of the city, especially in Gwinnett County, where an express bus system that uses the lanes has been wildly popular since its inception in 2001. One benefit of the carpool lanes is that traffic typically continues to move in those lanes while the rest of the interstate suffers from stop-and-go traffic during rush hour, he said.
"People who carpool or are using public transit are able to use this HOV lane to bypass congestion in the regular-use lanes," Brantley said.
That gives people who use the lanes several benefits, he said, such as saving money on gas and car repairs, saving time and reducing stress due to traffic jams.
U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, recently helped secure the federal road funding from the House Appropriations Committee. The funding is just one of many ways the federal government is helping with transportation issues in Georgia's 13th District, Scott said.
"My district is experiencing rapid growth and development, and now is the time to address the changing traffic needs that we face," said Scott, who represents most of Clayton County and part of Henry County.