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Posted: 8:26 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013

On Lexus Lanes and I-285 speed limits  

By Doug Turnbull

The gripes against the I-85 HOT lanes in Gwinnett were understandable. A lane that was free essentially to anyone who carpooled became a lane that cost money for those that wanted to ride in it (with exceptions, of course). Since the lanes aren’t mandatory and the price has gone over $8 for full trips some mornings, detractors have often called the variable lanes “Lexus Lanes.” And that is not a term of endearment, of course.

But if you are one who opposes the lanes and uses this term, look at them this way: don’t you want all the rich drivers in the same lane? Don’t you hate when “I own the road” high performance vehicle-drivers swerve in and out of lanes or tailgate you? Doesn’t that slow Benz SUV in the fast lane torque you off? Don’t you wish you didn’t have to share the road with such inconsiderate drivers? Thanks to SRTA and the DOT there are 16 precious miles of I-85 where this can happen.

If only there was a lane to protect us from people who drive while texting…wait…it would need a wall around it and there would need to me several of those, because most of us have done it.

The reason for the sarcasm here is to point out how silly paying attention to detractors of the lanes is. If you don’t like them – don’t use them. Sometimes those lanes move slower in some areas than the actual through lanes. Let them eat cake, guys. The lanes work for some and not for others. They are here to stay and will be on more interstates in future years. Get used to them.

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November 1st is the day that most of I-285 south of I-20 will see its 55 mph speed limit increase to 65. This makes sense, as the traffic slow in that area is often light and, in my opinion, 55 is simply too low and is hardly obeyed – especially on I-285. The DOT has also voted to implement variable speed limits on the north side of I-285 for launch sometime in 2014. This seems more problematic.

The idea is to allow for higher speeds in lower volume times and then temper them back down as volume increases just before rush hours. Lower speed limits could make for lesser amounts of crashes and, thus, fewer backups. Officials also can lower the speed limits when there are crashes or work zones nearby, making for a safer environment for the crews working them.

One hiccup in this thinking is that the speed limit of an interstate is pointless when traffic is moving 20mph – which is about the average speed of I-285 on a bad day. Another problem with varying speeds is getting into disagreements with authorities over what the sign said when you passed by it or when it changed. Doraville officers are on I-285 like white on rice and seem unforgiving with speed enforcement.

Just know that the DOT is in good hands these days. Traffic engineers actually run it – not just politicians. This idea wouldn’t be on the table if they didn’t think it could work. Just be prepared for it when it comes and try and look at change with an open mind, before making a complete judgment.  

Doug Turnbull

About Doug Turnbull

Doug has been an Atlanta traffic reporter and producer as part of WSB's award-winning team since 2004 and has been covering NASCAR the news team and since then, as well.

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Captain Herb Emory 1953-2014

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