Friday, September 17, 2010

State might keep collecting tolls on Ga. 400, the Northside's most expensive parking lot

Posted By on Fri, Sep 17, 2010 at 1:35 PM

  • SRTA
Northsiders and suburbanites might want to start looking for more quarters.

As first reported by the Atlanta Business Chronicle, the State Road and Tollway Authority might not let Ga. 400's toll expire as planned — and possibly increase the cost to $1 — to help pay for "improvements" along the notoriously congested road that connects the northern 'burbs to Buckhead.

SRTA Executive Director Gena Evans has reportedly briefed local officials about possibly extending the 50-cent toll, which was set to expire next June since bonds floated to pay for the road have been repaid.

Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell tells CL that he'd be willing to support the continued tolls on one condition. He'd like to see the Georgia Department of Transportation — which leases the highway to SRTA — use some of the new loot to finally build an interchange that would connect motorists from Ga. 400 to I-85 and vice versa. Such a project could help save motorists' wasted hours and automobiles' idle emissions.

For years, drivers traveling south on I-85 have exited at Cheshire Bridge Road and weaved through a ridiculous route to access Ga. 400. Motorists on the toll road who want to access I-85 North have to endure similar nonsense.

The out-of-the-way route has resulted in bottlenecks and headaches for residents, office drones and Buckhead-bound shoppers. Land was purchased and engineering studies were conducted for the interchange, but funding woes proved to be an obstacle. (A GDOT spokesman tells CL that, depending on the final design, the state agency would most likely need to acquire some small tracts of land to begin the project.)

The Chronicle's sources say a flyover ramp and fixes to the bottleneck might be part of the planned improvements. The state agency's board must first extend SRTA's lease to include the area where the interchange would be built. It's expected to decide that matter next Friday just minutes before SRTA debates the toll issue.

Should GDOT decide to build the interchange, that could open up new concerns from nearby neighborhoods about its impact on their lives. No telling how that conversation could go.

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