Ending the Ga. 400 tolls now isn’t a great idea

OK, I’m going to be the bad guy today. I’m going to be the only (according to my Twitter feed, anyway) person who thinks Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan to end the toll on Ga. 400 by the end of next year, which he announced today, is a bad idea. (For the record, I pay the toll going and coming every workday.)

Coming 12 days before the T-SPLOST referendum, this is an obvious pander for “yes” votes. It’s a last-ditch attempt to save what would appear to be an expensive but failed campaign to pass the $7.2 billion tax. But I highly doubt it will be an effective one.

There is no doubt the broken promise to remove the 400 toll — broken in 2010 by lame-duck Gov. Sonny Perdue — is a huge driver of opposition to the T-SPLOST. It is one of the clearest examples of why trust in government is lacking. Deal addressed this issue in a press-release quote about removing the toll, saying “it is imperative that governments build the trust of their people.”

But I will be very surprised if many voters upset about the broken toll promise hear Deal’s new promise to take it down — 17 months from now — and suddenly feel their faith in government renewed. In all likelihood, the damage is done.

The biggest problem I have with this decision, however, is that it ties our hands for making transportation improvements should the T-SPLOST fail.

Three things that many proponents and opponents of the tax agree on are: 1) we need to improve our transportation infrastructure; 2) the $450 million rebuilding of the interchange at 400 and I-285 is one of the most-needed projects; and 3) additional revenue is needed to pay for the biggest improvements.

Keep in mind the 400-285 interchange is just one of the projects along 400: Also on the T-SPLOST list are $190 million for collector/distributor lanes from 285 north to Spalding Drive and $48 million for improvements to the interchange at Holcomb Bridge Road. The referendum may fail because voters don’t think the entire list is worthwhile. But given the needs in the 400 corridor, I find it hard to believe it’s really a good idea before the referendum to forgo an existing revenue stream for projects there.

Government’s trust problem has as much to do with how it often goes about its work — e.g., the quick-and-quiet way the 400 toll was extended in the first place, and the belief by many voters that the T-SPLOST list was not compiled to maximize congestion relief but development opportunities — as anything else. What ticks off people around here is the sense that our elected officials are playing political games with issues that affect residents’ everyday lives, rather than setting a course of action and explaining/selling it to the public.

A last-minute bid to win support for a distrusted tax, while closing off options for the future, doesn’t do much to bolster my confidence in them.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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186 comments Add your comment

stands for decibels

July 19th, 2012
12:10 pm

this is an obvious pander for “yes” votes

you say that like it’s a Bad Thing!

Whereas I just tip my cap to political smarts, wherever I might find it.

Uh oh

July 19th, 2012
12:11 pm

Let’s make a Deal.

Kyle: I’m with you on the perception of the timing, however the state is finally following up on what it said it would do.

Side note: What do you think about the funding for the dredging in Savannah? Will create jobs to do the work and hopefully increased jobs long term in the area

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

July 19th, 2012
12:14 pm

“Coming 12 days before the T-SPLOST referendum, this is an obvious pander for “yes” votes. It’s a last-ditch attempt to save what would appear to be an expensive but failed campaign to pass the $7.2 billion tax.”

First thing I thought of when I read the headline.

iggy

July 19th, 2012
12:16 pm

No way. These politicians cannot and should not be trusted. This last ditch effort/pandering is shameful.

The GA toll can be eliminated, but that will not change my vote.

NO TSPLOST!!

PS…Desparate times call for desparate measures…LMAO!!

bu2

July 19th, 2012
12:18 pm

I agree. The problem is more with the project list.

The other problem is the ridiculous setup of government here. An unelected body chose to extend the toll. Noone has any authority over them.

In Dekalb County a zoning commission approved a zoning change. The County commission didn’t like it and sued their zoning commission. They couldn’t do anything else about it.

In Gwinnet County the cities and counties sued each other over how much the cities should pay for services.

In Fulton County the cities and counties are fighting over who gets how much of the sales tax.

Other states don’t have all this infighting and stupid waste of resources because they don’t have such stupid, unresponsive setups. With these unelected commissions able to make decisions without control by an elected body, you are just primed for the corruption that pervades Georgia government. With these battles over taxes and services, you create disharmony and an inability to work together. Sales taxes should be allocated to who collects them. Counties should budget for areas and be able to charge accordingly. Their boards ARE elected by the citizens of the various cities. And cities shouldn’t be able to do such a la carte pricing. And for that matter, its ridiculous how much of the urban area is unincorporated. The overwhelming majority of Dekalb County is urban and unincorporated. You’ve got heavily developed areas 5 miles from downtown Atlanta unincorporated and ruled by a County government. It makes no sense. And the mess that is the Dekalb County Commission and Fulton County Commission proves that.

@@

July 19th, 2012
12:20 pm

If Deal can do it now, there’s no reason he couldn’t have done it on January 11, 2011.

Kyle Wingfield

July 19th, 2012
12:20 pm

Uh Oh @ 12:11: I think there’s an argument to be made that ports are one type of transportation infrastructure the federal government has an interest in creating and funding.

Fwiw, the same was true of was the interstate highway system. But I would argue that, today, with the interstates more or less built-out, the feds should relinquish the bulk of transportation planning and funding back to the states.

It makes little to no sense that Georgians pay a gas tax, the feds take the bulk of it, then Georgia’s politicians have to go to Washington and ask for our money back — but the feds decide what we build with it! This is the story of the downtown streetcar, which is a low, low priority for anyone who cares about traffic in Atlanta. But we’re building it because Ray LaHood thought it was neat-o …

bu2

July 19th, 2012
12:20 pm

And Deal can’t oppose the TSPLOST, but if he actively works for it, I will almost certainly vote for someone else next time for governor.

carlosgvv

July 19th, 2012
12:21 pm

“it ties our hands for making transportation improvements”

This is based on the assumption that all the fees collected by GA 400 tolls are actually going where they should go. This, at best, is a very dubious assumption.

bu2

July 19th, 2012
12:22 pm

Ray LaHood would think the TSPLOST projects are neat-o.

Kyle Wingfield

July 19th, 2012
12:24 pm

@@ @ 12:20: In fairness to Deal, his hands were tied back then because his predecessor had already sold the bonds. There was (according to Deal today, anyway — although it does sound familiar) a prepayment penalty for repaying the money in less than three years. Dec. 1, 2013, makes three years.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

July 19th, 2012
12:30 pm

Hey, Kyle!

Maybe Deal read your 2120 Poll Position column regarding the T-SPLOST polling numbers and decided he had to do something.

You’re a shaker and a mover, my man! :D

PENN STATE: The New Notre Dame

July 19th, 2012
12:34 pm

Wouldn’t it have been a BETTER IDEA to end the tolls on GA 400 years ago when the voters of this State were promised they would be?

Uh oh

July 19th, 2012
12:34 pm

Kyle

Thanks for the reply. No offense but I figured you would agree but not without adding a few things that are not directly related. However, we may disagree on certain issue, but certainly there is a place for Fed, State and Local.

PENN STATE: The New Notre Dame

July 19th, 2012
12:36 pm

Our State & Federal Governments, especially the current Federal Government, already use the money we give them as virtual toilet paper in buying votes and signing off on half-baked ideas and misapplied projects.

Burn in Hell, July 31st T-SPLOST!

Tap Out

July 19th, 2012
12:43 pm

Construction workers, put away your tools and equipment….there’s a good chance these folks are not gonna vote for road projects and jobs. Next time vote Democrat, you may not like them but they are better for the middle class.

oldfart

July 19th, 2012
12:44 pm

After he abolishes SRTA, fires Gena Evans, discontinues the I-85 HOT lane, diverts the 300 million dollars from the gas tax already earmarked for the $1,000,000,000.00+ HOT lanes planned for the I-75 corridor, then we’ll talk. By the way, talking about things quietly slipping through, that $300 million dollar seed money for the I-75 HOT lanes that passed at the end of the last session of the legislature barely received a mention in the press, AJC included. That is gas tax money that could have been used to address some of these projects in the TSPLOST referendum. These extremely high up front costs put the revenue generation from HOT lanes much too far in the future to be feasible. The government trust issues have been massive from GDOT, SRTA, the governor and the legislature not Listening to their constituency that the Billions of dollars planned for HOT lanes all over Atlanta could be better spent.

Aquagirl

July 19th, 2012
12:44 pm

The biggest problem I have with this decision, however, is that it ties our hands for making transportation improvements should the T-SPLOST fail.

Good catch Kyle. Like everyone else I about rolled my eyeballs out of my head at the pandering, and didn’t think about the second part.

I often criticize conservatives because they scream and squall about plan A. Ask anything about plan B and you get a blank stare, followed by louder screaming about plan A.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

July 19th, 2012
12:49 pm

Tapout- We the People will be deciding on T-Splost and the Republicans are the ones who got it on the ballot.

What planet are you dialing in from?

JDW

July 19th, 2012
12:52 pm

@Kyle, not much to dispute here…

“Coming 12 days before the T-SPLOST referendum, this is an obvious pander for “yes” votes.”

It’s what Raw Deal does best. Only difference is this time its to the “Gubment is Bad” crowd instead of one of his business partners…er supporters.

No worries though, if the “Gubment is Bad” crowd actually bothers to go to the polls and defeat TSPLOST we won’t have to worry about new congestion…shrinking economies produce lower congestion…see there was a “cheaper” fix.

DannyX

July 19th, 2012
12:54 pm

“But we’re building it because Ray LaHood thought it was neat-o …”

Republicans! Who needs them?

Another problem with our gas tax revenue is the funding formula at the state level. 35% of Atlanta gas tax revenue is siphoned off to other parts of the state. No wonder Atlanta is backed up.

Since metro Atlanta is being short changed all around there are limited choices. With TSPLOST about to go down the only options are toll roads, toll lanes, and stifling traffic. I believe the people of metro Atlanta prefer stifling traffic, especially the suburbanites who won’t even fund rail service like Fulton and DeKalb currently do.

JDW

July 19th, 2012
12:55 pm

@Tiberius…

The Republicans are the ones who got it abdicated their responsibility as elected officials forcing the need to put it on the ballot.

Got your typo…no thanks needed.

Jefferson

July 19th, 2012
12:57 pm

So why not vote for the other party and teach them a lesson ?

Kyle Wingfield

July 19th, 2012
12:57 pm

PENN STATE @ 12:34: Compared to the way they went about extending it, yes.

That said, and I wrote as much at the time, there was a case to be made that 400 needed so many more improvements that the toll needed to stay in place. They just didn’t want to bother making that case.

iggy

July 19th, 2012
12:58 pm

“shrinking economies produce lower congestion”

That is the best way to control the Atlanta MegaMessOpolis, shrinking economy. The city of Atlanta only wants to contribute useless ideas like the beltline, light rail etc when its already a given these are loss leaders.

Bye Bye TSplost…

@@

July 19th, 2012
12:59 pm

Pre-payment penalty, Kyle? How does it compare to the overall penalty we’re facing if T-Splost goes thru?

What a mess!

obozo

July 19th, 2012
1:01 pm

Kyle- For a small donation to my reelection campaign, Obama 2012, I can rid you of the GA 400 tolls you currently pay, forthwith. I will get on the phone right now and tell them to go pound sand. For a larger contribution to my campaign, I can even make them give you money for using GA 400. And you’ll be a Silver Level Sponsor to boot, making you eligible for a dinner at the Senate Cafeteria with Joe Biden. So write that check today, go hop in your car and ride up and down 400 without a care in the world, all hours of the day, clog it up if you’d like.

( Hey, what’s this big word on my Teleprompter? Rid, ridi, ridic, ridiculous. Aahhh, I got it.)

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

July 19th, 2012
1:02 pm

JDW? Your 12:55 is focusing on a comment I never made.

Really son, I’m just not your type.

I suggest less fixating on ME, and more on the other posters.

@@

July 19th, 2012
1:04 pm

“shrinking economies produce lower congestion”

Not to mention cleaner air.

Let us all B-R-E-A-T-H-E a sigh of relief.

I was just reading an article about fertilizing the oceans with iron…a cheap form of sequestration. Not a cure-all but a step in the right direction.

Algae is amazing stuff.

old timer

July 19th, 2012
1:05 pm

Pandering…I am still voting no

Uh oh

July 19th, 2012
1:08 pm

JDW.

You are the son of Tiberius?

learn something new every day

:-)

MANGLER

July 19th, 2012
1:17 pm

Observing how metro Atlantans handle each other while driving compared to many other regions, I’d like to point out that if you’d simply let other drivers merge with you rather than tailgate up to the last possible point of pavement, a large part of the congestion at pinch points would take care of itself. Spend some effort to remind drivers that simply being courteous and sharing the road with each other eases congestion and reduces stress. Can you imagine hearing (pay attention here) business leaders and tourists make comments like “the people of Atlanta are so courteous and friendly I just love spending lots of money there”. But that kind of talk will never come out of Gov’t because nobody makes any money from no bid construction contracts from it.

SBinF

July 19th, 2012
1:26 pm

Wait, you are opposing a tax cut?

Please pardon me while my head explodes.

What would Grover Norquist say??

JDW

July 19th, 2012
1:26 pm

@Tibeius…”JDW? Your 12:55 is focusing on a comment I never made.”

Right you are…it was directed at Whiner’s 12:49…no worries though since you guys think alike you were thinking it. :lol:

md

July 19th, 2012
1:27 pm

And he’s right to pull the plug and return the process back to the masses. The original toll was sold to those masses with an ending point. So now he is ending it as agreed.

Any new process should again be determined by the masses….either through referendum or on the campaign trail……….

JDW

July 19th, 2012
1:28 pm

@Uh Oh…”You are the son of Tiberius?”

Only in his rather fertile imagination…

ByteMe

July 19th, 2012
1:28 pm

I’m still back to: they need to create toll plazsas wherever 65 mph turns into 55 mph and use it to fund road and transit improvements under a single umbrella agency that combines GRTA, ARC and MARTA.

My Plan B. Thank me later :)

Jefferson

July 19th, 2012
1:28 pm

What ? Paper legs ?

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

July 19th, 2012
1:30 pm

A fertile imagination comment from someone who attributes a remark to me that I didn’t write.

Too funny! :roll:

md

July 19th, 2012
1:32 pm

“I’d like to point out that if you’d simply let other drivers merge with you rather than tailgate up to the last possible point of pavement, a large part of the congestion at pinch points would take care of itself.”

And every time I try to be courteous,, the guy/gal I let in slows down in front of me and causes everybody from there back to slow down or slam on their brakes……there is also an art to merging into faster traffic……..if you can’t drive like nascar, stay to the right. Those signs that say “slower traffic keep right” are there for a reason………..

Samantha

July 19th, 2012
1:33 pm

Nathan Deal did indeed pander. I laugh thinking about the phone calls and meetings with PR firms adn politicans trying to find a way to get TSPLOST out of it’s well deserved ditch. Cancelling the GA 400 tolls from the Northside to Buckhead should have been done when Sonny Perdue was governor, not now. The government broke faith with the taxpayers and this eleventh hour, jail house conversion is not going to restore that faith.
Yes TSPLOST is in trouble becasue the voters don’t have much faith in the people who will control the money. BUT the real problem is in the project list. Too much money to pet projects and not enought money to attack the real enemy, traffic.
I vote Nice Try but NO.

AnotherGovtLie

July 19th, 2012
1:35 pm

“The biggest problem I have with this decision, however, is that it ties our hands for making transportation improvements should the T-SPLOST fail.”

It doesn’t tie anyone’s hands at all! That’s the whole point, Kyle. Since promising to remove the toll (17 months from now) was just a lie anyhow to try and get more votes for T-SPLOST, when T-SPLOST fails he will just go back on his word yet again and NOT remove the toll. He will use the fact that T-SPLOST was voted down as his reason, even though he didn’t say he was going to remove it “if T-SPLOST passes”. He just said he would remove it, period. Lie, lie, lie. All these people do is lie. What’s sad is that your statement that I quoted above tells me you still don’t get that.

JohnnyReb

July 19th, 2012
1:37 pm

Deal has now made two mistakes on TSPLOST.

The first was endorsing it to start with,

and the second is, as Kyle writes, the obvious pandering to try and save it.

I have posted numeours times that TSPLOST is a wealth transfer project from South to North of I-20. That remains true and for that reason and the special interest, excuse me, project list should be voted down.

TruthBe

July 19th, 2012
1:41 pm

YES it is. Why? Because a deal is a deal, and a contract is to be honored, and your word is your bond. The State had a contract with the people of Georgia to take it down, in fact the contract had a sunset rule in it. REMEMBER???????? And the last election the now Governor Deal PROMISED to remove the toll for good period. So keep your word. And also VOTE NO on T-SPLOST.. Because of all the extra taxes and spending in it that has NOTHING to do with fixing the traffic problems. NO NEW TAXES FOR ANYTHING EVER UNTIL THE GOVERNMENT STOPS WASTING OUR HARD EARNED MONEY. Stop spending and cut the size of government. That includes state, city, county, and federal governments.

kimmer

July 19th, 2012
1:42 pm

I agree. The damage is already done and there are serious consequences for betraying the public’s trust. Talk about penny wise and pound foolish!

Kyle Wingfield

July 19th, 2012
1:48 pm

AnotherGovtLie @ 1:35: No, more like giving him too much credit to make this announcement trumpeting his kept promise and then turn around and go back on it. If he wanted the toll up in case of a failed T-SPLOST, why not frame it that one possible benefit of approving the T-SPLOST would be that the toll could come down?

In other words, if he wanted the toll to be up in the case of a failed T-SPLOST, I think he’d just let sleeping dogs (or in this case, tolls) lie.

Now, a different toll — maybe HOT lane(s) — in the future? That’s not out of the question imo.

TruthBe

July 19th, 2012
1:52 pm

carlosgvv , I agree with your statement posted at 12:21pm.

July 19th, 2012
12:21 pm

ragnar danneskjold

July 19th, 2012
1:52 pm

They are not fooling the people they need to fool, are they?

jconservative

July 19th, 2012
2:00 pm

I will believe that the 400 tolls are gone when I see the toll booths gone.

yuzeyurbrane

July 19th, 2012
2:09 pm

You are the bad guy. Moreover, you are obviously a closet tax and spend liberal. How clever to masquerade as a conservative.