Ga. 400 toll to end Friday

Georgia’s first foray into tolls will soon be over, with the end of the 20-year collection of 50 cents a trip on Ga. Highway 400.

One State Road and Tollway Authority official said the future of tolls in the state is likely to look a lot more like Gwinnett’s express lanes, which opened two years ago.

“Ending the Ga. 400 toll marks a shift in how we think about tolling in Georgia,” SRTA Deputy Director Bert Brantley said. “I’m not sure we’ll ever again see a static toll with toll booths and cashiers. All of our new projects are dynamic pricing with all-electronic collection, similar to the I-85 Express Lanes in Gwinnett.”

The Ga. 4oo toll began in August of 1993 — a 50 cent trip to pay for the 6.2-mile extension of the highway from Interstate 285 to 85. Since then, it has generated about $20 million a year, currently about $60,000, paid either through a Cruise Card or Peach Pass or with change.

While about 55 percent of those who take the trip pay in quarters, statistics from Peach Passes show that nearly 2,000 Gwinnettians pay the toll on weekdays, on average. On weekends, about 900 Gwinnett-based Peach Passes are recorded each day.

The original bonds for the highway project were paid off in 2011, but SRTA voted in 2010 to extend the tolls to construct connector ramps from I-85 south to Ga. 400 north and Ga. 400 south to I-85 north, as well as 14 other projects along the corridor.

While those new bonds were set to expire in 2017, Gov. Nathan Deal pledged to end the tolls early, and the bonds will be paid off next month.

“A promise was made when the road opened to end the tolls when the project was paid for, and Gov. Deal is fulfilling that promise,” Brantley said. “For commuters, it is really a win-win situation. The projects planned for the corridor are fully funded, including the connector ramps, and the toll is ending almost four years early.”

With more than $300 million in tolls paid over two decades — nearly all of which has gone toward transportation projects for the corridor and operations — Brantley said people can see some big improvements in that area.

“There is no doubt that the Ga. 400 extension has left a lasting, positive impact on the Buckhead community as well as North Fulton, Forsyth and other counties along the corridor,” Brantley said. “The direct connection to I-85 has led to a thriving economy and tremendous growth in the area. State and city leaders showed tremendous courage to persevere through controversy surrounding the road and stay committed to the project.”