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.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx this afternoon announced that the state will receive a $275 million loan to help jumpstart the Northwest Corridor Project, a massive managed-lane build that's expected to ease traffic in Cobb and Cherokee counties.
"Folks want their time back," Foxx told reporters at an Atlanta press conference. "That's why projects like this are so important."
Construction will start next year on the new, reversible, toll lanes along nearly 30 miles of I-75 and I-575. The state will get the federal money, part of the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, in the form of a 35-year loan with a 3.79-percent interest rate. TIFIA loans are meant to help transportation projects that might otherwise wither due to size, complexity, or uncertainty.
According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, total costs for the build will amount to nearly $834 million. It won't look exactly like the HOT lanes on I-85 in Gwinnett County, where existing lanes were striped off from the others. New lanes will be built, while the variable pricing and Peach Pass use will be the same.
The toll-road project happens to run right beside where the Braves have "secured" land to build a new $672 million stadium in Cobb. But GDOT Commissioner Keith Golden said the project had been discussed years before the team's recent announcement.
"There was no collaboration [with the Braves]," Golden said.
Foxx added that the Northwest Corridor Project was chosen for a competitive loan because it stood out as a "really good project" with "really good collaboration across a lot of political barriers." He also acknowledged Georgia U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson for their active advocacy across party lines with the federal loan.
"Investing in our nation's infrastructure can still bring Republicans and Democrats together," he said.
The project is expected to be finished in early 2018. We've embedded a document that includes the build's timeline and other details, which you can read after the jump.
Before Atlanta Braves fans settle into their seats at the proposed Cobb County stadium, they'll first stroll down a pedestrian boulevard featuring retail shops, restaurants, hotels, residential units, and office space.
Should county commissioners sign off on the team's new $672-million facility, Braves executives would partner with a developer on a privately-funded, $400-million mixed-use project. If team has its way, the adjacent development would open alongside the new stadium in 2017.
Team reps think the development would create a year-round experience complete with greenspace and an entertainment district that could extend beyond the club's 81 home games each season. Here's a few ways how the club's execs think it'll transform the area. So say the Braves in a document released to the public:
* The development will be a destination for community life, including significant amounts of street-oriented and neighborhood-serving retail, parks and green space.
* By incorporating green space into the design plans, the Braves are seeking to preserve existing terrain and habitat for the benefit of public use.
* The planned Cumberland District Circulator will alleviate the need for all parking to be located on site, fostering a walkable community that extends from beyond the site's footprint.
* Proper planning will allow for improved connectivity to the surrounding community to positively affect property values, quality of life and public safety.
In yet another document, which you can find below the jump, the franchise provides more details about the proposed mixed-use project. It also includes a few aerial renderings as well as a sketch of what the majestic walk to the new stadium might look like.
They've now released a finalized draft of the contract that outlines financing, maintenance, development, and transit details. If Cobb commissioners approve the deal, the Braves would formally commit to its OTP home through the 2046 Major League Baseball season.
The AJC has obtained a copy of the memorandum of understanding. We've included a copy of the proposed agreement below:
Discuss among yourselves as we sift through the 20-page document.
Pitts is no stranger to gambling advocacy. He's remained an outspoken champion of crap-shooting, roulette-spinning, and card-dealing establishments dating back to his days as Atlanta City Council president. In 2009, he told CL he wanted to transform Underground Atlanta into a gambling wonderland filled with video lottery terminals - VLTs for short. Now he's making his case for computerized blackjack, poker, and slots should the Braves leave the city.
Yesterday afternoon, Pitts told 11 Alive:
I say stop crying. Let's see this as an opportunity and take advantage of it. Roll up our sleeves; let's get to work, if in fact it's a done deal.
Some people have called me and said 'Wouldn't this be a great spot for a casino one day in Atlanta?' And the answer to that is, yes.
I'll be honest with you. The handwriting was on the wall for years. We've known the fan base was north, and it's only because Ted Turner insisted that the Braves remain in downtown Atlanta that they did for years.
Pitts thinks there's a chance - a tiny one - that the Braves will stay at Turner Field. But if not, he wants Atlanta residents to double down on digital hands like nobody's business.
Atlanta's ethics board has found Winslow - who was re-elected this month to serve portions of Castleberry Hill, Mechanicsville, and West End - in violation of the city's ethics code. The councilwoman, board members say, broke rules against using public property for personal gain as a political candidate.
The complaint, filed by District 4 candidate Torry Lewis, claimed that Winslow paid Proview Tours LLC, a charter bus service, $390 in city funds to shuttle senior citizens in her district to a campaign kickoff event at her headquarters.
In a letter to the ethics board, Winslow admitted to her wrongdoing and claimed she subsequently paid the city back for the campaign-related costs. According to the AJC, she attributed the problem to a staffer's error and declined to comment. Her case will go before the city's ethics board on Thursday at 6 p.m.
"Winslow hides behind the ability to not say anything," Lewis told CL in September. "If she doesn't say anything, her hope is that her constituents won't hear anything, the press doesn't hear anything, and her colleagues won't hear anything. My wish would be for her to comment on these outrageous expenditures."
This infraction isn't Winslow's first offense when it comes to using public cash for campaigning purposes. During her prior re-election bid four years ago, the councilwoman spent approximately $29,000 in taxpayer dollars on campaign-related expenditures including hired jazz musicians, a glorious inflatable bounce house, nearly $8,000 for a barbecue feast, and other items. She was later smacked with a $1,500 ethic fine and ordered to repay $5,420 of those expenses.
We've asked the ethics board for additional documents, including Winslow's response letter, and will update this post once we receive those items.
For 24 hours this weekend, an army of programmers, designers, and students took over City Hall for the second time in nine months for Govathon. The 24-hour City Hall-sponsored hackathon brings together Atlanta's tech-savvy set and tasks them with finding modern solutions to the city's woes.
Representatives from City Hall, Atlanta Public Schools, and the Atlanta Police Department teamed up with Start Up Atlanta to challenge code monkeys, computer programmers and app-developers to find ways to make the city's mounds of data more accessible and helpful to citizens and bureaucrats.
About 100 digital gurus packed the Atlanta City Council's old chambers for round two of modernizing the government. Late on Friday night, city officials presented their wishlist to the attendees - they included a pension benefits calculator, a text-message system to remind residents about trash pickups, GPS tracking for your child's school bus, and a crime prediction app. The participants then split into teams and, fueled by Chick-fil-A, Doritos, Cheetos, sodas and plenty of sweets, shared ideas.
Working on presenting the city of Atlanta's finances in a more user-friendly way for #govathon. Finally figured out how prop taxes work.
- Conor Sen (@conorsen) November 16, 2013
#govathon is also one more piece of evidence of Atlanta's insane housing policy.
- Will Stamped (@willstamped) November 16, 2013
After working together throughout the night, 22 teams of sleep-deprived techies then had three minutes each to present their ideas to a panel of judges. The panel chose three top winners and several honorable mentions.
The winners and more pictures after the jump...
One week ago today, metro Atlanta residents were digesting the Atlanta Braves' stunning announcement that the team would likely move from Turner Field to a new stadium in Cobb County. Bits of information last week provided insight to Cobb's enticing offer and Atlanta's failed negotiations. Now we're finding out more regarding the team's internal decision-making regarding the move and surrounding development deals.
The AJC spoke with six Braves executives - including CEO Terry McGuirk, President John Schuerholz, and Executive Vice President of Business Operations Mike Plant, among others - about how the $672-million stadium deal took shape. In Tim Tucker's article, which is worth a full read behind MyAJC.com's paywall, he outlines how team executives worked quietly and quickly - even staving internal rumors about a potential sale - to finalize the move.
Months ago, the executives agreed to a code of silence about what they were up to. They required the same from anyone they had to bring into the process as a deal moved closer to completion with Cobb.
"I couldn't be more proud of a group of senior executives than our group for getting this done in the manner we got it done and keeping it contained and completely confidential," Schuerholz said. "They worked tirelessly to get a process that ordinarily takes three or more years done in months without it becoming public."
Schuerholz acknowledged "some people are dismayed" by the secrecy that surrounded a matter so important to Braves fans and Cobb County taxpayers. "But it was the only way we could go about this," he argued, "because of the timing and the impact on our relationship and partnership with the city and our about-to-be-new partnership with Cobb County."
While the Braves were busy in secret negotiations, the area they were planning to call home was becoming quite popular. Prospective real estate investors over the past few months acquired land near the stadium's proposed site. Last Friday, the Atlanta Business Chronicle highlighted one noteworthy $45 million deal near the new stadium's proposed site:
So what did the Atlanta Braves want from the city to stay at Turner Field? According to documents obtained from Mayor Kasim Reed's office, the team's executives wanted to split the cost of stadium renovation costs between the city, county and Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority, get out from under AFCRA's oversight and deal with City Hall directly, and manage parking.
The team also wanted a list of requirements on whatever development was selected to transform the mammoth parking lot across the street from The Ted. Among them: a parking deck that could accommodate 8,600 cars, a ban on certain types of businesses "that may be offensive or vulgar to the community or Braves' fans," and limits on the number and location of fine-dining restaurants and sports bars. It'd also prohibit certain advertisements promoting competitors of the Braves' exclusive sponsors.
Oh, and "ANLBC" stands for "Atlanta National League Baseball Club."
Let's pick it apart, CL money gurus! According to the just released details, Cobb County would pay a total of $300 million to build the proposed Atlanta Braves stadium near I-285 and I-75. The Braves would pick up the remainder of the costs for the $672 million ballpark that, pending approval by the Cobb County Commission later this month, would become the team's new home after decades playing near Downtown.
The local contribution adds up to approximately $17.9 million per year. It includes $14 million from the county's transportation department, money to operate a circulator, hotel and motel taxes, car rental taxes, and cash from the nearby Cumberland Community Improvement District, a business group that imposes a tax on itself to pay for area improvements and projects. It also includes an $8.67 million "reallocation of revenues." The county notes that it would not include a property tax hike on Cobb homeowners.
The Braves would handle cost overruns but would retain exclusive rights to the stadium and all revenue, minus the small share the county would receive for naming rights.
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