8/19/2013Georgia: State To Remove Tolls From GA400 Highway
Governor Nathan Deal moves to demolish toll booths on the Georgia 400 toll road.
As many states are pushing to turn their freeways into toll roads, Georgia is moving in the opposite direction on at least one major highway. Beginning November 21, the Georgia 400 toll booths will be closed and motorists will no longer have to toss 50 cents into a basket to drive on the 6.2 mile route between Atlanta and Sandy Springs. Earlier this month the state agreed to hire Southeastern Site Development Inc to handle the process of toll booth demolition.
"I acted as quickly as the state's contractual obligations allowed to bring down the GA 400 toll," Governor Nathan Deal (R) said in a statement. "I pledged during my campaign for governor that I'd bring down the toll as the state promised commuters it would do when it opened the toll more than two decades ago."
In 1993, GA400 opened as part of a federal demonstration project introducing electronic tolling transponders, now known as Peach Pass. Despite the availability of an electronic payment option, about 60 percent of drivers still pay cash to use the road, generating about $20 million per year, less $7.7 million in overhead required to maintain the tolling apparatus. Now that the original bonds are paid off, the state will maintain the road as part of the freeway network. Most toll roads continue collecting tolls long after the original bonds were scheduled to be paid off.
It will take a year and at least $3.5 million to pull down the complicated and expensive tolling hardware. Signs must be removed and replaced and lanes need to be re-striped. Beginning in January, traffic will have to be diverted around the toll booths and toll plazas in temporary lanes as the obsolete concrete structures are demolished.
"In the coming weeks, the department will work with the selected contractor and with State Road and Tollway Authority staff to make certain that when the toll plaza removal process begins later this year, it will not unduly impede traffic flow," Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Keith Golden said in a statement.
The de-tolling project is scheduled for completion on May 31, 2014.