Gov. Nathan Deal promises that an end to tolls on GA 400 is in sight, though that won't be until after Dec. 1, 2013 – yes, next year.
The Governor said bonds issued by the state will be paid off by that time, allowing the tolls to be removed.
This will stop collection four years earlier than previously planned, according to a release sent out Thursday morning.
“Ga. 400 commuters have paid more than their fair share already, and this is the earliest we can bring it down without paying a penalty for early repayment of the bonds,” Deal said.
“When the Ga. 400 toll went up, the state of Georgia promised commuters that it wasn’t forever. If we don’t keep that promise, we lose the faith of the people.”
Commuters expected the GA 400 toll to come down after 20 years, in 2011. But in 2010, the state issued new bonds tied to the toll revenue to pay for improvements along the GA 400 corridor, including a new connector to I-85.
The $40 million in bonds were issued Dec. 1, 2010. Deal's office said at the three-year mark the state can repay the bonds without a penalty.
The state also needs time to plan for physically bringing down the gates and the dramatic restructuring that will be needed in the toll area.
The State Road and Tollway Authority still has to approve of this proposal.
Local politicians were quick to respond to Deal's promise, including Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell.
“I applaud Gov. Deal for upholding his promise to remove the GA 400 toll. Although meant to be a temporary source of infrastructure revenue, the 400 toll has become a transportation barrier," Albers said.
"A promise made is a promise kept. I look forward to bringing my sledgehammer down on Dec. 1, 2013 to remove these tolls for good,” Albers said.
Opponents in the state Senate District 21 Republican Primary agreed it was time for the tolls to go.
"Today is an incredible day for thousands of Georgia residents, commuters, and businesses that travel through Atlanta each day," said Brandon Beach, a member of the Georgia Department of Transportation Board and the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce CEO and president.
"I praise the governor’s bold decision, and I’m proud of the close involvement the Georgia Department of Transportation played in bringing the toll to an end. I was honored to stand with the governor this morning as he made the announcement.”
Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, the incumbent and Beach's opponent, also applauded the action.
“This fulfills a promise made to Georgians many years ago that the toll would come down when the road was paid for. Unfortunately the Governor had to take action to correct the failure of the Georgia Department of Transportation Board, which voted in 2010 to keep collecting the tolls even after the original bonds had been paid in full.
"The failure of the DOT board seriously eroded the trust we have in our government. Today, Governor Deal is taking positive steps toward restoring our trust.”
Jim Galloway in his Political Insider blog says the timing is intended to help TSPLOST get approved.
What do you think?