In a press release earlier today, Gov. Nathan Deal announced that he would have the state pay off its bond debt by Dec. 1, 2013. He said the state would then move quickly to remove the Ga. 400 toll before the beginning of 2014 and stopped toll collections four years earlier than previously planned. However, the State Road and Tollway Authority will have to approve it first.
Deal said this move was in response to his promise to commuters.
“Ga. 400 commuters have paid more than their fair share already, and this is the earliest we can bring it down without paying a penalty for early repayment of the bonds,” Deal said in a press release. “When the Ga. 400 toll went up, the state of Georgia promised commuters that it wasn’t forever. If we don’t keep that promise, we lose the faith of the people. We face many challenges when it comes to paying for new capacity, particularly in the Atlanta region. There are no easy answers, no secret pots of money, but it is imperative that governments build the trust of their people. As your governor, I will keep the promises I make to you.”
The Ga. 400 Toll was supposed to come down in 2011, but the state then issued new bonds for improvements. The broken promise stirred up strong emotions from taxpayers and commuters. As the debate intensifies on whether or not to approve the TSPLOST for transportation, which comes with new promises for dismantling after 10 years, skeptical voters cite the 400 Toll as a reason to doubt this promise.
As a candidate for governor, Deal had promised to end it when he got into office, but the new bonds tied it up until 2017. Deal said it can be paid off at the 3-year mark without a penalty and since the $40-million in new bonds was issued on Dec. 1, 2010, that mark is reached on Dec. 1, 2013. The state will then need a little time to dismantle the toll gates and restructure the area.
“As I have said many times before: I inherited a situation where we could not bring down the gates immediately, and we face a situation where we would have to pay a penalty for early repayment,” Deal said. “This timeline gives commuters a finish line, while still allowing us to meet our obligations. Moving forward, we’ll need to continue to work on long-term solutions to congestion in the 400 corridor. And I look forward to doing that in a transparent fashion that commuters can trust.”