Are separate toll lanes alongside Ga. 400 and I-285 a good idea, especially if they require razing houses to make way for the new roads? Reactions to the proposal appeared sharply split in our most recent 1Q survey.

Although more than four in 10 of the 200 respondents said they would use the proposed toll lanes if they were built, about a third of the respondents said they wouldn’t use the lanes and fully a quarter said they weren’t sure whether they would or not. The survey was conducted by via cellphones used by residents of Reporter Newspapers communities. The results reflect only respondent opinions.

An illustrated map by the Georgia Department of Transportation shows the conceptual Ga. 400 toll lane alignment and potential property impacts on Northgreen Drive and Talbot Colony in Sandy Springs. (Special)

When asked whether private property should be taken and 20 or more homes razed to make room for the lanes, respondents were sharply divided, with a few more saying no than yes. At the time of the survey, the Reporter had revealed GDOT’s proposal involved possibly taking at least 20 homes; since then, GDOT has released a plan showing at least 42 homes and others buildings would be demolished on just one section.

“No one should be forced to give up their home for a toll road,” a 44-year-old woman commented. “The state should find an alternative.”

“Please don’t do that [take private property for the toll lanes],” a 34-year-old Brookhaven man responded. “Let’s complete the existing projects and see how that impacts traffic flow and then we can move on.”

State transportation officials are moving ahead with plans for building a new system of toll lanes along the Ga. 400 and I-285 interchange over the next decade. The four “express lanes” are intended to help move traffic through the area and to improve traffic flow. The Ga. 400 lanes also would carry a new MARTA bus rapid transit route, which would require adding access points and stations.

The percentage of answers to the question of whether the respondent would use the future GDOT toll lanes along Ga. 400 and I-285.

Although GDOT officials say they haven’t yet fully figured out how much land building the lanes will require, many homeowners in the area have said the state already says it must acquire some or all of their property for the project.

Supporters of the project were quick to say that residents should be paid a fair price, or even a premium price, if their homes were taken for the project. Some suggested that any homeowners forced to move because of construction should be paid relocation costs in addition to the price of the property.

A 33-year-old Brookhaven man said he would support taking the property “as long as a fair price is paid for the houses. The city is growing rapidly and needs to work toward solving congestion issues. Not everyone will like the solutions, but letting traffic continue to get worse is not an option if Atlanta is going to continue growing (which seems to be a given).”

And a 40-year-old Sandy Springs woman put it simply: “Twenty houses for the greater good of Atlanta traffic? Definitely!”

But not all respondents were convinced the toll lanes would do any real, lasting good.

“Toll lanes are stupid,” a 19-year-old Dunwoody woman commented. “I will not use them. Let them stay in their homes.”

Other respondents thought the money could be spent better elsewhere, especially on expanding public transit.

“Twenty houses isn’t a significant number, but I still don’t think that it’s worth it to build toll lanes,” a 34-year-old Brookhaven woman commented. “I think it would definitely be worth it to expand the rail and public transit options. More lanes won’t affect the number of cars on the road, and it’s not possible to add enough lanes to truly match the cars that want to be at that interchange. The only long-term solution is to enable people to get from A to B without cars or without going through that interchange, such as enabling folks to live closer to where they work.”

Here’s what some other respondents had to say about taking homes for toll lanes:

“No! Toll lanes effect our community schools, neighborhoods and children. We do not want them built.”
– a 35-year-old Sandy Springs woman

“Yes. Atlanta traffic is among the worst in the country. We are getting more and more cars on the road and we have to do something.”
– 49 year-old Buckhead/Sandy Springs woman

“Civil engineers will tell you that increasing lanes doesn’t alleviate traffic in the long term. More cars come to fill them. The best way to reduce traffic is to do as other major cities in the world do — invest in public transportation.”
– 38-year-old Atlanta woman

“The toll lanes are a money grab with minimal traffic alleviating benefits. The fact they are taking people’s homes seems inherently wrong.”
– 34-year-old Dunwoody man

“While I would use them … I think expansion in Atlanta is so poorly done I don’t think I can support eminent domain from an incompetent government and GDOT.”
– 47-year-old Atlanta man

“No. We just paid off a toll road [on Ga. 400]. Why would we want another one? Push MARTA and expand that.”
– 37-year-old Atlanta woman

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.