Austin Scott: Lift the toll on Ga. 400

The Republican campaign for governor continued at the state Capitol this afternoon.

State Rep. Austin Scott (R-Tifton), in an apparent attempt to attract the attention of metro Atlanta commuters, has introduced HB 1443, which would dismantle the State Road and Tollway Authority as well as the toll on Ga. 400 – which raises $22 million annually.

Quoting from his press release:

“When this project began, citizens and government agreed that the toll would come down when the road was paid for. Yet when Roy Barnes was governor, he directed a change in the legislation that will leave the toll up indefinitely.

“Now more than ever, Georgians should be concerned with their ever-expanding government. Why should taxpayers spend $20 million to run an agency that provides $2 million in road maintenance?”

But this is from an article written last March by my AJC colleague Ariel Hart:

Not only will drivers continue to pay a toll on Ga. 400 through 2011, but they may be paying even more tolls in the future.

As of this fiscal year, the authority owes $26.6 million in principal and interest on the debt incurred by building Ga. 400, said Cherie Gibson, spokeswoman for the State Road and Tollway Authority. That’s less than the $32 million the state has on hand, sitting in reserve accounts. That money represents tolls collected, as well as interest and investments from the toll money.

But Georgia can’t pay off the Ga. 400 debt, authority officials say, because it has to stick to a payment schedule that runs through 2011.

The 6.2-mile extension of Ga. 400 inside the perimeter opened in 1993, and was financed by tolls. Some neighborhoods may have despised the roadway, but it was a hit with drivers and the tolls poured in.

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127 comments Add your comment

NoBama

March 23rd, 2010
2:51 pm

another example of mis-managed government entities. this surely bodes well for obamacare

The Political AVENGER, ta-da

March 23rd, 2010
2:54 pm

Once you give the government the chance to get your money you won’t get it back. Politicians “buy” their seats with “our” money.

CrazyInGA

March 23rd, 2010
2:55 pm

If you don’t want to pay, take the exit prior to the toll, idiot.

Gabe

March 23rd, 2010
2:57 pm

Where’s the other $18M? Is the State Road and Tollway Authority spending it or does it move to another agency?

Take down the toll

March 23rd, 2010
2:58 pm

This is a perfect example of a politician taking charge and working to shrink that size of government. Austin Scott seems to understand the needs of the state and really be a proponent of smaller government that better represents the taxpayers

JASon

March 23rd, 2010
2:59 pm

They promised to use the toll just to finish paying for the roadway. THEY LIED.

Typical gov't

March 23rd, 2010
3:00 pm

Gov’t always does this. When do you ever see a sales tax decrease. Roy Barnes is a typical goofy democrat with an annoying accent. It was funny though to see him and the other dem running backtrack on the passing of obamacare not saying how happy they were.

Toll Payer

March 23rd, 2010
3:01 pm

Keep the toll, toll more roads, and use the money to pay for maintenance and expansion of those tolled roads. People should pay for what they use. I’m tired of my tax money four-laning roads in Valdosta, Waycross and Allllll-ban-eee.

Jeff

March 23rd, 2010
3:01 pm

Clark howard has mentioned this a few times over the years. This is what politicians do. Lie and steal and mismanage money and give kickbacks. Just like obamacare.

Toll Troll

March 23rd, 2010
3:02 pm

Who cares about .50 cents, the state can use this money to help with the upkeep of other roads around Atlanta. No one has to sit in traffic on Highway 400, if they do not want to. They can sit in traffic on another road!

Ian

March 23rd, 2010
3:03 pm

Toll payer = Idiot

Doug

March 23rd, 2010
3:04 pm

Sure. Take the exit before the toll…and waste 30 minutes on side streets to get back to ga 400 North or South of the toll. Bottom line… this was approved only as a short term measure with no agreement to collect the toll after the road was paid for.

Ian

March 23rd, 2010
3:06 pm

Who cares?
$1.00 per day for most commuters x 260 days is $260 you give up each year.

JAT

March 23rd, 2010
3:06 pm

I guess that CrazyInGA is the only idiot that likes paying the toll. Get rid of the toll!

Whatever

March 23rd, 2010
3:06 pm

Why doesn’t he just behave like other Republicans and throw a brick through their window.

Mary

March 23rd, 2010
3:08 pm

“This is a perfect example of a politician taking charge and working to shrink that size of government.”

OMG, that is hilarious. It has nothing to do with “shrinking the size of govt.” It’s about him trying to get elected.

Independent Thinker

March 23rd, 2010
3:09 pm

Political Avenger: Politicians don’t buy their seats with our tax money ~ the corporations buy their seats for them!! Right on Toll Payer! People why are you trying to shoot yourselves in your own feet? We need healthcare reform!! This is America, one of the richest countries in the world! We should be altruistic enough to care for all. When I read a quote from a financial manager, who says that his high 6-figure clients don’t pay any more taxes than your average schoolteacher, it makes my hair curl!! Should we do away with Social Security, Medicare, public schools, transportation, etc.? Don’t listen to the moronic talking heads, who are only in it for the money. Do you really think they believe half of what that spout and spew?? Think for yourselves. So many of you proclaim this is a “Chiristian” country – is that what your religion teaches you: not to help those in need. Get over your fear and bigotry and join the rest of the Western World!!

Rich

March 23rd, 2010
3:10 pm

THe promise made when it was started was that the toll would pay for the road and then stop. They lied, now let’s stop the toll. It is the people’s money, not the government’s money. This will not impact me, I have paid the toll may 6 times. It is about what is right and wrong.

Toll Tired

March 23rd, 2010
3:12 pm

The GA 400 Toll was supposed to be used to pay for the GA 400 expansion. Once that expansion was paid for the toll was to stop. The road was paid for several years ago and now the commuters who use 400 are paying for repairs and new roads all over the state. Frankly, those who use I-75, I-85, I 20, I-285 and other roads that lead into, out of and around Atlanta need to pay their fair share of the upkeep!

Lindsey

March 23rd, 2010
3:13 pm

As of driver along GA 400 everyday I know for sure the toll money is not used for maintenance! 400 stinks, there is always traffic, they should be true to their word and take down the toll. Wait…what am I thinking a politician being honest, no way that is going to happen!

MBAGrad

March 23rd, 2010
3:14 pm

Wrong just wrong. If it must stay up then we deserve an explanation of where this money is going or how it will be used.

Bill

March 23rd, 2010
3:16 pm

Heck, even New York took down the toll on the Hutch!

DRH

March 23rd, 2010
3:16 pm

So NOW Austin Scott cares about the people of Dunwoody? Thanks for blocking and delaying our cityhood for a year, Mr. Scott. Who knew that one day you’d run for statewide office and that I can help block you.

DW

March 23rd, 2010
3:16 pm

@crazy Do you enjoy paying for things and then paying for them over and over and over again yet not getting anything?

Rich

March 23rd, 2010
3:17 pm

Toll Payer – Gas tax is meant to pay for road maintenance. If there is not enough or is it being used poorly, we should raise the gas tax. Not use tolls, unless most roads have tolls.

itpdude

March 23rd, 2010
3:18 pm

GA 400 as a toll-way was explicitly approved because the toll would be eliminated once the road was paid for. It’s been paid for. Execute the deal. When I paid off my car, I didn’t keep on paying Ford Finance. My end of the bargain was satisfied and while Ford would have loved continuing collecting my monthly payments, they were ethical enough to hold up their end of the deal. A deal is a deal.

Jon

March 23rd, 2010
3:18 pm

Scott is just mad that the money is used for metro ATL roads. If he could siphon some off to build a 16-lane highway from Tifton to Albany, he would.

Alphare

March 23rd, 2010
3:19 pm

Why don’t let others pay a little since most of us don’t pass that toll way gate anyway.

I’d say keep the toll for another one hundred years.

BTW, Sunny has been in office for 8 years now, if you count 1 chance a year, he’s got 8 chances to abolish Roy Barnes’ establishment, if you count 12 chances a year, he’s got 96 chances to abolish what Roy Barnes established.

Do you really think Austin Scott will abolish the thing if he is elected?

Road Scholar

March 23rd, 2010
3:20 pm

Doug: “Sure. Take the exit before the toll…and waste 30 minutes on side streets to get back to ga 400 North or South of the toll.”

It’s your right isn’t it?

There are still monies to be paid to pay off the project. After that, pay for the southern connection to I 85to the north to address congestion and mobility. Then do something/anything to the I285/SR 400 interchange.Tolls can still be used to improve the corridor.

Oh, and by the way, when is the ATMS project going to be finished? It’s been years since it was started. (Do you see the cables sticking out of the holes in the shoulders?)

JAT

March 23rd, 2010
3:22 pm

Well said Independent Thinker. I am so over these so called Christian Republicans who are anything but christian! It is so funny how greedy and selfish they all are; just the opposite of what they proclaim to be! I’ve got mine, screw everyone else!

Scott For Georgia

March 23rd, 2010
3:27 pm

1. When did this project begin? The GA 400 toll project began in 1990 and opened formally in 1993 as the last section of GA 400 to be constructed.

2. How much did it cost? The cost of the project was $271 million, and the money came from funds from the Georgia Department of Transportation, the federal government, revenue bonds and MARTA. Approximately $25-30 million is still owed on the bonds, which are due in 2011.

3. When did they say it would be taken down? Originally, the GA 400 toll road would be removed in 2011 when the bonds were due. However, in 2001 the Georgia Legislature changed the intent of the toll road, and its commissioning, specifically changing it as follows:

The tolls no longer “Shall’ come down, but “May” be turned over to the Georgia Highway Authority and remain free of tolls.

This occurred with 2001’s SB134, section 1-14, and it should be noted that it’s now up to the SRTA itself, once all bonds are repaid, to determine if the tollway should be turned over to the Georgia Highway Authority and become toll-free. The bill’s sponsors were his Floor Leader Charles Tanksley and four Senate Democrats.

When questioned in a 2009 11 Alive interview, Governor Perdue was noncommittal about removing the toll road.

4. How much has it made since that time? According to the AJC,
“Of the $22 million or so the state reaps from Ga. 400 drivers, about $7 million goes to running the toll authority and $9 million a year goes to paying down the debt.”

Roughly $2 Million of the above Toll Authority costs taken from annual revenue is spent on maintaining the road, and there are incidentals such as the occasional repaving and salaries of staffers of SRTA.

5. Where has the money gone since then? GA 400’s traditional purpose has been to fund other road projects. One of the last major projects to be attached to it was the reconstruction of the northern interchange of I-285.

GA 400 was roughly $26.6 Million in debt as of March 2009, and the state had $32 million set aside to pay it when the project’s bond financing is concluded in 2011. Former Toll Authority Director Gene Evans went on record as saying: “The authority needs to use the excess toll money for salaries of officials who arrange financing for the state Department of Transportation.”

Oldbuckeye

March 23rd, 2010
3:30 pm

Part of my GA 400 stimulus plan – get one of those toll pass cards – and stick it in the armrest. When you pass through the fast lane it won’t register — therefore making a person look at the video to charge you the $.50 for the toll! Just doin’ my little part to keep someone employed.

Shannon

March 23rd, 2010
3:31 pm

All of you bashing OBAMA need to stop and ask yourselves, “if it were BUSH would you be complaining”? Get a grip and stay on the conversation. 400 is located in GA, not on Capital Hill. Complain to the stinkin’ gov’t that runs GA and it’s OLD LAWS (that still hesitate to sell alcohol on Sundays), don’t blame OBAMA for everything that happens or goes wrong in this country! If this is how you want to view the issues around us (since you have GREAT insurance), then maybe you need a reality check! Lack of intelligence simply equals stupidity.

Alphare

March 23rd, 2010
3:36 pm

Scott For Georgia,

since you are a Republican in a republican-controlled legislature, why don’t you talk to your leaders and the Republican governor to abolish the thing? I mean the entire Georgia in you guy’s hand. Democrats have a minority for 8 years now, and you all-righteous Republicans have been in office for 8 long years in the mean time. A little like abolishing the toll gate takes you so long? what else can you accomplish if you guys in stay in office for another 8 years?

Red

March 23rd, 2010
3:39 pm

Bob Irvin tried this back in 2002. Never got anywhere. Once government starts charging for something, they’re very unwilling to give it up even when something was supposed to expire. I applaud Scott for trying this. But under the guise of “we can’t cut any more revenue sources” this is DOA. Ironic – whether money is pouring in or it’s hard times, government will never give back money they took.

Rich

March 23rd, 2010
3:41 pm

Shannon, no one bashed Obama. It was a comparison.

PMC

March 23rd, 2010
3:42 pm

The roll of the tollbooth was to pay for GA 400. It is paid for. Dismantle the Tollbooth.

This doesn’t have to be political at all. The roll of the tollway authority on 400 has ended. End the toll simple. No reason to bicker over politics here.

Rich

March 23rd, 2010
3:43 pm

Remember that many of the “Republicans” were “Democrats” 10 years ago. Same people in power, just a different name.

Lee

March 23rd, 2010
3:44 pm

“The nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on this earth is a government program.”

- Ronald Reagan

Nonia

March 23rd, 2010
3:46 pm

This Toll was initially intended to pay for 400. Now years after 400 has long been paid for many times over and over again, the revenue has been used as a never ending credit card but, for what?

The money generated from this tollway could have been used to expand Marta around 285 and fully up and down 75/85 and I-20 both east and west bound as a solution to curtail Atlanta’s horrific traffic. The traffic problem in and around Atlanta must be addressed for it has gotten to the point were as companies are reluctant to relocate their headquarters/manufacturing plants here. They are choosing other parts of Georgia such as West Point, Peachtree City, Union City, Savannah…etc or other states altogether.

Shibolden

March 23rd, 2010
3:46 pm

You’all racist north Atlanta MF’s don’t wanna give us anything.. do you? I mean whats $.50 to you?
complainting about $2.50 cent a week, when I caint even feed my babies. Why dont you comes down here an see how is it livin in some free sec 8 housin.. then you’ll see.
My plasma just upen broked on me an they won’t fix it,

PMC

March 23rd, 2010
3:47 pm

If we’re going to do this only to GA 400 commuters and 260 a year isn’t much money… lets charge everyone in GA with a car 260 dollars extra a year for the roads they drive? How will that go over?

US CITIZEN

March 23rd, 2010
3:52 pm

Exactly why you should read all the small printed ammendments and bond request when we step int to the voting booth. GA 400 has been paid for 10 fold yet we are still paying into a state slush fund.

Intown

March 23rd, 2010
3:53 pm

Don’t fall for this. Austin Scott does not give a darn about Metro Atlanta or City of Atlanta residents. But, I’m fine if Repubs want to vote for him because Barnes would wup him in a general election face-off. Scott is a LIGHTWEIGHT.

SKA

March 23rd, 2010
3:55 pm

How quickly we forget what it was like to drive north of Holcomb Bridge
Road before they expanded to 4 lanes. Where do you think they got and are still getting the money to pay for that? The toll. Now if they orignally got some of the money from MARTA, I wish they would give some of that toll money back in to extend the MARTA train up 400 now.

LtMike

March 23rd, 2010
3:56 pm

Good for Austin Scott. This road has been purchased time and time again. Like they say….Once the government gets hold of your money, you can’t get it back. Let’s prove them wrong!

Carl Nes

March 23rd, 2010
4:05 pm

The Dems like Roy Barnes outright lie to the public and steal our money, and the Repubs just say it won’t happen like that if you elect them, but then do nothing. One is an outright lie; the other is an abdication of truth. Thanks to scum politicians.

AF

March 23rd, 2010
4:07 pm

How is the money being spent now? If it goes to other road improvements and maintenance, maybe that is not such a bad thing!

Mr. Galloway, can you get that information for us?

Just the Facts

March 23rd, 2010
4:13 pm

Actually, Ga 400 IS NOT paid for. The bonds are not scheduled to be paid off until 2013. BUT, SRTA has MORE than enough cash on hand to pay the bonds off TODAY. The problem is, the bonds cannot be retired early according to the bond covenants. However, that does not mean that SRTA couldn’t escrow the money and have the monthly payments deducted until the debt is retired in 2013.
Here is the net effect of doing just that.
1) You could take the tolls off GA 400 TODAY! Have a party to tear down the toll booths.
2) The 70+ employees of SRTA can be terminated TODAY, saving the state MILLIONS of dollars.
3) Gena Evans, the human wrecking ball, along with all of her high salaried inner circle of groupies, can be terminated TODAY, saving the state MILLIONS more, and probably preventing numerous lawsuits that seem to follow her everywhere she goes.
4) Life gets a little better by all of these events taking place.

All of this was explained to Sonny Perdue at least two years ago, and he chose not act. He has allowed the users of GA 400 to continue to be taxed, even though the state has enough money to retire the bonds. He has allowed his precious Gena to have a nice fat salary for herself and all of her cronies that she takes with her from state job to state job.
Everybody knows we could desperately use the toll revenue for transportation funding in this state. There are other improvements that need to be made to Ga 400. But where I come from, A PROMISE IS A PROMISE. And just like so many other broken promises from Sonny, this one may be the biggest because of the MILLIONS that have been collected needlessly from the drivers along GA 400. Shame on you Sonny. All you have ever cared about is taking care of yourself and your friends at the expense of the taxpayers. All one has to do is drive around Houston County if they want to see it first hand.

matchtuff

March 23rd, 2010
4:13 pm

NoBama what does this story have to do with Obama? Nothing is the answer. Neil Carter=give me a break. Please make on point comments or go enjoy your orange nobama tea that was served today-lol
Actually we are in no position to stop this toll. I would rather pay the 50cents than have higher taxes.