The Georgia Department of Transportation has announced a series of January open houses for its top-end I-285 toll lanes. The series of meetings includes locations in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs and near the borders of Brookhaven and Buckhead.

In October, GDOT said it is delaying the construction timeline for the controversial toll lanes by years, with the earliest start date sometime in 2023, to get more competitive bids from contractors. But the agency said the public input process would remain on track and that some free lanes would be built sooner. Those free lanes will be part of the presentation in the open houses. The open houses will not have a formal presentation, but will have information and officials available to answer questions, according to GDOT.

An overview of the new sections of the I-285 toll lanes project. The section of Ga. 400 to the north has a separate but connected toll lanes project. (GDOT)

Also still ongoing is property acquisition for right of way, one of the biggest controversies of the toll lanes proposal. GDOT previously said the Ga. 400 project alone will take more than 40 houses and other buildings in Sandy Springs, and more than 300 properties could be “affected” by the I-285 toll lanes.  Among the areas already known to be impacted are residential areas of Sandy Springs and Doraville’s Assembly site, and Dunwoody’s Georgetown area fears it could be on the list.

The open house schedule includes:

  • Jan. 21, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Chamblee First United Methodist Church, 4147 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Chamblee.
  • Jan. 23, noon-2 p.m. and 4:30-7:30 p.m., City Springs, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs.
  • Jan. 28, noon-2 p.m. and 4:30-7:30 p.m., St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church, 1978 Mount Vernon Road, Dunwoody.
  • Jan. 30, noon-2 p.m. and 4:30-7:30 p.m., The Gallery at Cobb Galleria, 1 Galleria Parkway Southeast in Cobb County.

GDOT is planning to add toll lanes on Ga. 400 and I-285 as part of a proposed metro-wide system that already includes parts of I-75, I-85, I-575 and I-675. The new section running through the Perimeter Center and Buckhead areas would run on roughly the northern half of I-285 above I-20, and on Ga. 400 roughly between I-285 and Alpharetta.

Part of the Ga. 400 toll lanes would carry MARTA buses, and a similar system has been proposed for the I-285 lanes.

The toll lanes project is separate from the I-285/Ga. 400 interchange reconstruction project that is currently under construction. That project, known as “Transform 285/400,” began in 2017 and is expected to wrap up in late 2020. However, the toll lanes would run through the interchange area and connect with it.

In the revised timeline, the Ga. 400 lanes north of the North Springs MARTA Station are to start construction in early 2022 and open in 2027.

The I-285 project was split into two sections with different construction timelines. The “East Metro” section — between Ga. 400 and Henderson Road, and including Ga. 400 south of North Springs Station – would start in 2023 and open in 2029. The “West Metro” section, between Ga. 400 and Paces Ferry Road, would start in 2026 and open in 2032.

While the overall toll lanes projects are delayed, GDOT said it will build certain parts of their proposed systems sooner to get ahead of the game and offer some traffic improvements. Those projects include:

I-285 westbound collector-distributor lanes: The dedicated lanes for interchange-users would run from Chamblee-Dunwoody Road to Ashford-Dunwoody Road in Dunwoody. They would be extensions of similar lanes being built now for the Transform 285/400 project. Construction would start in 2022 and open to traffic in 2024.

I-285/Peachtree Industrial Boulevard interchange: Improvements to the interchange near eastern Dunwoody include adding collector-distributor lanes. Construction would start in late 2021 and finish in late 2023 or early 2024.

I-285 westbound extra lane: The new lane would come from widening I-285 in Sandy Springs between Roswell Road and Riverside Drive. It is intended to serve drivers going between interchanges so they don’t have to weave through traffic, but anyone will be able to use it. The project also includes replacing the Mount Vernon Highway bridge over I-285. Construction would start in mid-2022 and finish in late 2024.

GDOT’s overview of the toll lanes and related projects is online here.

Correction: A previous version of this article gave an incorrect timeline for the I-285 westbound collector-distributor lanes. This story also has been updated with comment from GDOT about the open house format.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.