Bill would let state keep tolls after roads are paid off


State transportation officials are seeking the General Assembly’s blessing for their plan to use tolls as a permanent tool to regulate traffic on Georgia’s congested highways.

On Tuesday, the Senate approved Senate Bill 183 by a vote of 50-1. The bill grants the State Road and Tollway Authority the power to collect tolls on road projects in perpetuity, rather than letting the tolls expire once road construction projects are paid for.

MORE: Who pays the tolls on I-75/I-85?

TRACK BILLS: AJC Legislative Navigator

In the past, the state has pledged revenue from tolls to help pay for construction projects, but promised to remove the tolls when the project is paid off. One example: Ga. 400, where — after a public outcry against plans to keep the tolls — state officials removed them in 2013.

Now, Georgia uses tolls to regulate traffic, as well as pay for road projects. Under a “dynamic pricing” strategy, tolls rise as traffic increases. The idea is to limit the number of vehicles in toll lanes to keep traffic in them moving at 45 mph or more. Drivers are essentially paying for the privilege of moving faster than those in the general purpose lanes.

It’s a strategy SRTA uses on the new I-75 South Metro Express Lanes in Clayton and Henry counties and the I-85 express lanes in Gwinnett and plans to use on the Northwest Corridor in Cobb County.

SRTA Executive Director Chris Tomlinson said the agency essentially is asking legislators to “formally recognize the strategy that the whole world knows we’re already doing.”

Not everyone is sold. State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, cast the lone dissenting vote. He said the tolls should expire when a project is paid for.

“I don’t know if it’s keeping trust with the voters,” Fort said of the bill.

Senators passed an amendment to the bill that requires SRTA to report the amount of money it collects from tolls and how those dollars are used.

SB 183 also would grant SRTA the ability to extend credit or loans to private parties involved in road construction and to form nonprofit corporations to do the same. Tomlinson said that would encourage partnerships in which private companies could borrow money for public road projects at reduced rates while being responsible for repaying the debt.

He said SRTA would retain the authority to set and collect tolls on Georgia highways.

SB 183 now goes to the House of Representatives.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Iran tests new ballistic missile
Iran tests new ballistic missile

Iran tested a new ballistic missile that reportedly is capable of carrying multiple warheads, CNN reported Saturday, citing the nation's state-run broadcaster announced. >> Read more trending news “Iran has released footage of the successful test-launch of its new ballistic missile, Khorramshahr, a few hours after it was unveiled during...
Memo: Seattle officer bragged that 'mini Mafia' controlled off-duty contracts
Memo: Seattle officer bragged that 'mini Mafia' controlled off-duty contracts

As an FBI investigation into Seattle’s off-duty police work unfolds, additional claims of questionable tactics by officers have emerged, including a report that one policeman proudly called his fellow officers a “mini Mafia” in the way they secured, enforced, and collected on private security and traffic contracts in the booming city...
Trump touts transparency on Twitter
Trump touts transparency on Twitter

President Donald Trump has no intention of scaling back his Twitter presence.  >> Read more trending news The president, campaigning for fellow Republican Luther Strange in Alabama on Friday night, touted his provocative and sometimes controversial tweets, CNN reported. "That is the great thing about Twitter," Trump said during...
Texas students told ‘It’s the law’ to stand for Pledge of Allegiance
Texas students told ‘It’s the law’ to stand for Pledge of Allegiance

A presentation telling students that they have to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance because it's the law has caused controversy at a Texas high school, the Houston Chronicle reported. >> Read more trending news  Juniors and seniors at Midland High School were given a presentation on the Pledge of Allegiance earlier this month...
Police: New Orleans mayoral candidate facing lewd conduct charge
Police: New Orleans mayoral candidate facing lewd conduct charge

A New Orleans mayoral candidate was arrested on a charge of lewd conduct after police said he was found with his pants pulled down in the back of an Uber in Santa Monica, Calif., Nola.com reported. >> Read more trending news Frank Scurlock was picked up on a charge of public masturbation in February, police said. Terry White, a deputy...
More Stories