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Deal: GA 400 Tolls End in 2013

The Governor said the state can't pay off bonds tied to toll revenue until after Dec. 1, 2013, or it would pay a penalty.

Gov. Nathan Deal promises that an end to tolls on GA 400 is in sight, though that won't be until after Dec. 1, 2013–yes, next year.

The Governor said bonds issued by the state will be paid off by that time, allowing the tolls to be removed.

This will stop collection four years earlier than previously planned, according to a release sent out this morning.

“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. “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.”

Commuters expected the GA 400 toll to come down after 20 years, in 2011. But in 2010, the state issued new bonds tied to the toll revenue to pay for improvements along the GA 400 corridor, including a new connector to I-85. The $40 million in bonds were issued Dec. 1, 2010. Deal's office said at the three-year mark the state can repay the bonds without a penalty.

The state also needs time to plan for physically bringing down the gates and the dramatic restructuring that will be needed in the toll area.

The State Road and Tollway Authority still has to approve of this proposal.

AJC Columnist Jim Galloway wasted no time breaking the news on his Political Insider blog. Speaking of the governor's press release he said "there’s no mention of it, but clearly the timing is intended to help the July 31 vote on the transportation sales tax."

What do you think about Governor Deal's decision? Do you think it helps the July 31 TSPLOST vote? Tell us in the comments.

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