Under gray skies, the couple's black sedan cruised through the booth to toss the final two quarters on Ga. 400. Soon after, the highway's toll arms went up and road workers waved drivers through the plaza, sans payment.
At today's ceremonial event, Gov. Nathan Deal told reporters and special guests that he had promised to remove the tolls during his 2010 campaign. Last March, the State Road and Tollway Authority announced that the change-collecting kiosks would be no more.
"Commuters here have paid this toll long enough," he said.
The golden goose had proved unkillable for years as the toll stayed open. The state kept collecting quarters for additional Ga. 400 corridor projects at a rate of about $55,000 daily.
The state had borrowed money against toll collections as far out as 2017. But by paying off its debts now, Deal estimates that the state would save $1.3 million in interest payments.
"We're in a position to be able to pay off those bonds and the extensions that have been created over the years," he said.
According to SRTA, some of that money raised against future revenue is financing new connector ramps from Ga. 400 southbound to I-85 northbound in Buckhead to help clear up traffic around Sydney Marcus Boulevard. Those improvements are set to open in mid-January.
"There's been promises made and now promises kept," said state Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs.
One day before the Ga. 400 toll came down, the feds announced they would pony up a low-interest $275 million loan to help Georgia build reversible toll lanes on I-75 and I-575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties. But the Ga. 400 toll road, Deal says, is different because it wasn't built to raise general revenue.
"I think you have to ask the question: is that the way to raise revenue, on a select group of people who have to use this corridor to go back and forth to work or whatever?" Deal said.
The governor added: "Obviously it was intended to be used for the purposes of developing this [Ga. 400] corridor. We think we have done all of those projects up to this point in time and it has more than paid for itself, it's past time to take it down."
"The road was never...completed, if you will," Tomlinson said.
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