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Feds deny Gov. Deal's HOT lane waiver

7:35 PM, Nov 22, 2011   |    comments
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ATLANTA - Gov. Nathan Deal has lost his wish to change at least one thing about the controversial new Peach Pass HOT lanes on Interstate 85 in Gwinnett and DeKalb Counties.

Before the new toll lanes opened seven weeks ago, at least two car poolers could ride in the old HOV lane for free.

But at least three are needed for a free ride in the new HOT lane and the car owner must still buy a Peach Pass.

Within days of the new toll lanes opening, it was clear they were slowing down and not speeding up the commutes of many angry drivers.

The State Road and Tollway Authority says the number of people using the HOT lanes has more than tripled in recent weeks, but many drivers remain angry.

Last month Gov. Deal said the Tollway Authority would ask Federal transportation officials for a waiver to let only two car poolers ride for free again.

The permission is needed because of Federal funds helped pay for the project.

But now the Federal Highway Administration has written back denying the waiver.

Their letter said "it is too early to evaluate its effectiveness at this time."

The agency pointed out that similar projects around the country have eventually become successful after some fine tuning.

The State Tollway Authority has already written back asking the Feds to "reconsider."

"It's completely what we expected," said HOT lane opponent Howard Rodgers.

He started one of three protest groups that have since merged their efforts to shut down the new toll road.

"It just enhances and strengthens our fight and resolve to continue fighting until this goes away," Rodgers told 11Alive News on Tuesday.

He said their group has collected more than 10,000 signatures and plans to take them to Federal transportation officials in Washington in early January.

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