The Federal Highway Administration signed a Record of Decision for the Northwest Corridor project, the Georgia Department of Transportation announced Friday.
The final environmental approval paves the way for federal permitting of the nearly $1 billion, 30-mile, managed-lane project to relieve gridlock in the Atlanta region.
New managed lanes will be added along Interstates 75 and 575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties, major commuting arteries northwest of the city. The new lanes will be separated from the existing Interstate, and will be reversible in order to allow only southbound traffic during morning commuting hours and northbound traffic in the evenings.
Drivers will pay a variable-rate toll based on traffic volume to access the lanes. The toll rate will be controlled by the state, not the developer, and will be managed to maintain traffic flow at about 45 miles per hour. The new lanes are expected to open in 2018.
Funding for the new lanes will be done with a combination of state and federal funds, bonds backed by tolls and federal grants, a yet-to-be approved low-interest federal loan, and gap financing from the private partner chosen to design and build the project.
The State Road and Tollway Authority will issue up to $385 million of toll bonds and $125 million of grant anticipation revenue vehicle bonds, or Garvees, for the financing.
GDOT will dedicate up to $536 million from state and federal motor-fuel sales taxes to the project, and is seeking a $270 million TIFIA, or Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, federal loan.
The team selected to build the project will be asked to provide as much as $160 million in gap financing, which the state expects to repay when the project is completed.
The firms that have been asked to submit responses to the RFP are C.W. Matthews Contracting Co. and the Michael Baker Corp.; Georgia Transportation Partners, comprised of Bechtel Infrastructure Corp., Kiewit Infrastructure South Co., Dewberry and Davis LLC and STV Inc.; and Northwest Express Road Builders, comprised of Archer Western Contractors, the Hubbard Group and Parsons Corp.