The Georgia Department of Transportation’s plans to build toll lanes along both sides of the top end of I-285 would include construction of brand-new highway access points where motorists can enter and exit the system from city streets.

Some local officials have raised concerns that the new access points would drive more cars onto city streets, adding even more congestion to areas such as Perimeter Center. GDOT contends the recommended access points to the toll lanes were selected to provide “adequate and equitable” access for motorists as part of its eventually statewide “Georgia Express Lanes” system.

GDOT says there still may be tweaks to the plans, including access points, after reviewing community input. A public comment period remains open online until Feb. 25.

Recommended access points that would connect to local streets include:

  • Perimeter Center Parkway in Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs.
  • Johnson Ferry Road at Ga. 400 in the Pill Hill medical center area of Sandy Springs.
  • Mount Vernon Highway at Ga. 400 in Sandy Springs.
  • North Shallowford Road at the Dunwoody/Chamblee border.

Raider Drive in Sandy Springs is listed as an “express lane merge.” The toll lanes are proposed to be built over Raider Drive with no direct access to local streets. “Merges” are places where motorists can move between toll lanes and general purpose, or free, lanes within the highway, according to GDOT spokesperson Scott Higley.

raider drive gdot toll lanes
The planned I-285 toll lanes are shown in this illustration being constructed over Raider Drive in Sandy Springs.

There are no detailed illustrations of what access points would look like, according to Higley. The animated video GDOT released in January of what the toll lanes would look like include concepts for the access points, he said.

GDOT Mount Vernon Highway
A screen shot from the recently released animated video of GDOT’s planned I-285 top end toll lanes shows what a newly constructed access point could look like at Mount Vernon Highway.

Sandy Springs previously pushed back on an GDOT’s plans to build toll lane interchanges in its city at Sandy Springs Circle, which was removed from the concept years ago, and at Mount Vernon Highway, which remains in the plan. In 2018, city planners said the Mount Vernon interchange could mean adding 20,000 vehicles a day to the residential street and could mean widening the Ga. 400 overpass bridge to six lanes by 2041.

As an alternative to Mount Vernon, the city wanted the interchange connected to Crestline Parkway due to concerns about impacts to local streets. The city eventually dropped the idea after a traffic study showed only a small reduction in impact.

Dunwoody and Brookhaven officials have raised concerns about access points that could exacerbate commuter traffic congestion. 

gdot perimeter center parkway access point
A screen capture of GDOT’s concept for an access point to planned I-285 top end toll lanes from Perimeter Center Parkway.

Higley said the state has been in talks with each city throughout the planning. He said that, when placing access points, the GDOT takes into account such factors as traffic demand, availability of potential for park-and-ride locations, and and proximity to town and activity centers.

“Once complete, I-285 Top End Express Lanes will be one piece of the Georgia Express Lanes network,” he said. “When considering potential access locations, the entire network was considered to provide adequate and equitable access for motorists systemwide.”

GDOT access point North Shallowford Road
A GDOT visualization of access points to the planned I-285 top end toll lanes at North Shallowford Road from Cotillion and Savoy.

Update: It was incorrectly reported that Raider Drive would be an access point to the planned I-285 toll lanes. The new toll lanes would go over Raider Drive and there would be no direct access to local streets from Raider Drive, according to GDOT.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.