Their job is to respond to and clear traffic incidents as quickly as possible between Fulton and Cherokee counties where, like elsewhere in metro Atlanta, a single fender-bender can wreck a rush hour.
Patrol spokesman Gordy Wright said GDOT is ponying up $9 million for the first year of the two-year program to pay for the new hires’ pay, training, equipment and vehicles.
“The first 29 troopers graduated in late October and are now patrolling in Cobb County,” he said about the Dec. 1 start, which will grow to a 35-member force. “The partnership also frees up local law enforcement to answer non-traffic related calls.”
The troopers will help keep traffic flowing “during peak times when traffic crashes occur,” and will also be writing tickets, Wright said.
“When not investigating traffic crashes, troopers will be enforcing traffic laws,” Wright said. “Fines collected by the courts on GSP traffic citations remain with the county and do not come to the Georgia State Patrol.”
GDOT spokesman Mark McKinnon said the program will expand in March and July to include 35 more state troopers to patrol I-85 in Gwinnett County and a five-trooper task force to investigate and reconstruct fatal crashes.
The program has been in development since 2011.
“The two agencies entered into an agreement last year where GDOT is providing funding for the new troopers,” he said.
Cobb County police are already adjusting to the beefed-up patrols.
“We’re sharing a radio frequency or two, which is cool, because all they have to do is switch over to talk to us,” said Sgt. Dana Pierce, the police department spokesman.
In addition, they are sharing the heavy lifting on investigations.
“The manpower they’re providing us with crashes on the interstate means they’re taking that under their belt,” Pierce said.
While the troopers also will pursue speeders and other dangerous drivers, they will most likely function as a deterrent, too, he said.
“It’s always good any time you see more law enforcement presence and visibility in an area,” Pierce said. “It’s a good thing. Some of us need to be constantly reminded to obey the law. They’re adding a layer of protection for citizens who are doing what they should be doing.”