Gov. Deal: GA 400 Tolls End in December 2013
Deal said the taxes would end years earlier than planned; some see it as a way to boost the fortunes of upcoming vote on TSPLOST.
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.
Deal said bonds issued by the state will be paid off by that time, allowing the tolls to be removed.
Some political observers are saying that the announcement is an attempt to be a boost to TSPLOST, a proposed one-percent sales tax that would bring $8 billion to metro-Atlanta roads if it's approved July 31.
Deal's proposal would stop collection four years earlier than previously planned, according to a release sent out this 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 tolll revenue topay 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.
Jim Galloway in his Political Insider blog says the timing is intended to help TSPLOST get approved.
What do you think?