BRADENTON, Fla. — As other states make plans to use tolls to finance needed transportation projects, Georgia is removing them on a busy stretch of road to fulfill a campaign promise.

Tolls on the Georgia 400 are expected to cease in time for Thanksgiving on Nov. 21, weather permitting.

In conjunction with dropping the tolls, the State Road & Tollway Authority will make an early, final payment on privately placed bonds issued in 2010 to finance additional projects along the GA 400 corridor.

Many of those projects came in 10% to 30% under budget, and those are among the funds that will help make the remaining $25,668,148.75 bond payment to Wells Fargo on Dec. 1, according to SRTA Deputy Executive Director Bert Brantley.

SRTA will also use some excess reserve funds and cash from the state's general revenue fund freed up as a result of refundings toward the early final payment, he said.

"December is the first chance we have to pay this off without a penalty," Brantley said. "Thankfully we put in the early call."

Gov. Nathan Deal, who serves as SRTA's board chairman, said he acted as quickly as the state's contractual obligations allowed to bring down the GA 400 toll.

"I pledged during my campaign for governor that I'd bring down the toll as the state promised commuters it would do when it opened the toll more than two decades ago," Deal said.

In early August, the authority selected Southeastern Site Development Inc. to demolish the toll booths at a cost of $3.5 million. That work will take place between January and May next year.

Completed in 1993, the 6.2-mile-long GA 400 toll extension was funded with $98 million from the 1987 Federal Highway Act as a "High Technology Demonstration Project." It was the first project of its kind in the United States to have electronic toll collection using automated vehicle identification.

On average the toll road brings in about $59,000 per day.


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