Governor Deal to Eliminate GA 400 Tolls
Governor Nathan Deal held a press conference at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 19 to announce that the GA 400 toll will end by the end of December 2013. Governor Deal was joined at the press conference by Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, Commissioner of the Georgia DOT Keith Golden, State Planning Director Nominee Toby Carr and SRTA Executive Director Gena Evans when announcing that the state expects to pay off bonds that have been used to fund the newest projects on GA 400, including the construction of ramps connecting GA 400 North with I-85 by December 1, 2013.
The new bonds taken out in 2010 totaled 40,000,000, with 29,000,000 used for the construction of the new ramps and $32,000,000 for additional projects along GA 400.
Governor Deal also spoke on the importance of trust of government with regard to the upcoming July 31 Regional Transportation Referendum. He explained that by ending the toll earlier than the 2017 date that was promised in 2011 when the toll was extended, Georgia citizens should see this as an opportunity to trust that the state will manage the funds collected by the one cent sales tax properly. He also spoke of the impact that passing the referendum will have on the GA 400 corridor:
"Approval of (regional transportation referendum) projects will have a critical impact on traffic in that corridor."
He continued by expressing his complete support of the passage of the referendum in order to show that Georgia is ready to invest in itself and to strengthen its economic vitality.
The initial leg of Georgia State Route 400 was opened to Georgia drivers in the summer of 1971, the result of planning that began as early as 1954. In its current state the route begins north of Atlanta at its I-85 intersection and terminates just north of Dahlonega. State Route 400 passes through the communities of Buckhead, Sandy Springs, Roswell and Alpharetta. The roadway remains the lifeblood of these and many other communities. Without this essential roadway, many areas north of Atlanta would lack critical infrastructure, hindering residential growth and economic development throughout the region.
The southern most portion of the project between I-85 and I-285 was the last leg to be constructed and until recently was the only active toll road in the state. This toll was to facilitate the construction of GA 400, originally financed through bonds, and to be paid off entirely by 2011. The toll plaza, located in Buckhead, is operated and controlled by the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA). Initial installation of the toll was accompanied by an expiration year of 2011, 20 years after the toll's creation.
Commuters were promised that once the construction bonds used to build the roadway were paid off, toll collection would cease. However, on September 24, 2010 members of SRTA and Governor Sonny Perdue voted to pass a 10-year extension of the toll. The toll extension to the year 2020 was slated to provide funding for various improvement projects and maintenance along the corridor. This caused a certain degree of mistrust in government and was done so with blatant disregard to the promise originally issued to the state's voters.
In contrast, the Regional Transportation Referendum on July 31 is unique in that built into the law are strict provisions for its efficient administration. Unlike the GA 400 tolls, the Transportation Investment Act of 2010 calls for a strict 10-year collection period; this collection period may end if funds are collected prior to ten years. If the T-SPLOST is to be extended, it may only be done so through another voter referendum. Thanks to strict legal guidelines, a GA 400 toll situation is an impossibility and only further serves to establish a foundation for passing the July 31, RTR.