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BUFORD: Gwinnett Senator slams new I-85 toll lanes | News

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BUFORD: Gwinnett Senator slams new I-85 toll lanes

BUFORD, Ga. -- As they began their third week of operation Monday, the new Peach Pass HOT lanes on I-85 through Gwinnett and DeKalb counties continue to draw heat.

"My constituents are very angry and very frustrated, and rightly so, because their commute times have been doubled," said State Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford).

After 22 years in public office, Unterman said she's never seen so many angry phone calls and emails over one subject.

She said her commute from her Buford home to her Atlanta office has also increased thanks to the new toll lane setup.

"Times are tough, people are fighting for their jobs, fighting to keep their jobs and they're afraid to be one minute late for work," she said.

Unterman says she understands that it may take a few months for people to get used to the new toll road, but she blames state officials for much of the angry reaction.

"I think that the communication and the education of the citizens has been a total disaster," she told 11Alive News.

Unterman claims she's been frustrated in her attempts to meet with state tollway authorities.

They declined a TV interview, but sent us an email calling it a communications breakdown.

"We have been completely responsive to requests to answer constituent questions from Sen. Unterman's office," wrote Malika Wilkins, Director of Marketing and Communications for the State Road and Tollway Authority.

Wilkins added that her agency welcomes feedback and will continue to try and reach the senator.

Meanwhile, the tollway authority pointed out things are getting better.

They said the number of motorists using the new HOT lanes has gone from about 3,000 a day the first week to about 7,000 a day now.

As they continue to tweak the system, SRTA says they hope to have a new survey form on the Peach Pass website by Tuesday to help track where drivers enter and exit the HOT lanes.

Senator Unterman says she fears the size of the angry reaction over this project could spell trouble for next summer's sales tax vote for other transportation projects.