Ga. 400 tolls: Gov. Deal reminds that tolls are history, closure wins awards

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.

Ga. 400 toll booth

The end of tolls along Ga. 400 has emergedd as an issue in the gubernatorial campaign. File/Credit: State Road and Tollway Authority

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.

Gov. Deal's campaign website includes this reference to the end of tolls on Ga. 400. (Red box added for emphasis). Credit: dealforgovernor.com, David Pendered

Gov. Deal’s campaign website includes this reference to the end of tolls on Ga. 400. (Red box added for emphasis). Credit: dealforgovernor.com, David Pendered

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.’”

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

6 replies
  1. writes_of_weigh says:

    ….and remember, the good Guv has made two promises about the snow/ice storms the metroLanta region has faced and faltered under during his tenure with perhaps another test coming prior to the November election. But we all must mollify our tested soles with the knowledge that…. this time, the Georgia DOT will, get it right with input from all sorts of Atlanta media types.
    But, too, isn’t Guv.- wanna-be Carter due equal air time?Report

    Reply
  2. writes_of_weigh says:

    ….and the next time you are trapped in Atlanta traffic because of an ice or snow storm, at least reach out and let others know with this [http://bit.ly/1whAVzk] handy app. Maybe you won’t feel so alone……Report

    Reply
  3. mnst says:

    Every time I drive past the old toll plaza, I’ll be sure to remember that Nathan Deal is the bonehead who removed a toll from a road that’s about to need a billion dollars worth of new interchange construction.Report

    Reply

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