By David Pendered
The issue of tolls on Ga. 400 may not be a hot button issue in this fall’s race for governor, but a recent media release reminds voters that tollbooths came down during the term of Gov. Nathan Deal.
The State Road and Tollway Authority, which the governor chairs, issued a statement about SRTA winning a national award related to the toll closure. The release was dated Sept. 5 and referenced an award bestowed Aug. 13.
Meanwhile, the Ga. 400 tolls are featured on Deal’s campaign website. They’re listed in the section titled, “The Results,” where the website states without elaboration: “Promise Kept, End of GA 400 Toll.”
There’s nothing unusual in a state entity waiting more than three weeks after an event to issue this type of press statement. But little is usual in this year’s campaign, and the timing of the release did put the Ga. 400 issue on the table near the start of the autumn campaign.
Deal’s campaign evidently remembers the outrage among some commuters when they discovered the state did not intend to remove the tolls, as promised, once the debt for Ga. 400 had been repaid.
Instead of ending the toll, SRTA determined to continue them in order to pay for other road projects in the Ga. 400 corridor. Then Gov. Sonny Perdue was SRTA’s chair at the time.
Deal said in the 2010 campaign that he would ensure the tolls were removed by the end of 2011. When that deadline passed and the tolls remained, politifact.com rated as “mostly false” a statement by Deal in 2012 that he had fulfilled his campaign promise by vowing to have the tolls ended in 2013.
According to politifact.com:
- “Deal failed to meet a date of his own making. But he has come up with a plan to eliminate the tolls, albeit on a deadline not addressed in his original campaign promise. Deal earns a Mostly False on this one.”
The toll was ended at Thanksgiving 2013. Just this month, the final vestiges of the toll booths were removed.
The national group that bestowed the award on SRTA is the Institute of Transportation Engineers.
ITE says it was formed in 1930 and now focuses on promoting mobility and safety needs in ground transportation. The student chapter at Georgia Tech won a regional award from the group in 2009.
According to a statement from ITE, SRTA was recognized in the operations category of the Transportation Achievement Awards. Specifically, ITE bestowed the award:
- “In recognition of the Georgia 400 Toll Road Closure, a project that met the safety goals for all motorists during and after tolls ceased and successfully communicated the demolition process to target audiences in advance of and during the project.”
SRTA’s statement begins with these three paragraphs:
- “The State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) was recently honored with the Institute of Transportation Engineers’ (ITE) Transportation Achievement Award for Operations for the planning and communications associated with the ending of tolls on GA 400. In June 2014, the project also won the Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvil Award of Excellence for media observances in government.
- “The ITE Transportation Achievement Awards recognize excellence in the concepts, programs or projects that have a significant positive impact on transportation planning, design or operations. SRTA received accolades for meeting safety goals and communicating the demolition process in advance of and during the GA 400 Toll Closure project. The Silver Anvil is the public relations industry’s most distinguished honor recognizing the very best in the profession.
- “’We are extremely proud to have the hard work and attention to detail of our SRTA team recognized by these international organizations,” said SRTA Executive Director Christopher Tomlinson. “Being honored by transportation engineering and communications professionals is gratifying. But the safe transition of GA 400 from tolled roadway to construction zone with no accidents and a well-informed driving public was our greatest achievement.’”