Lindsey Calls for Rescinding Ga. 400 Tolls
Legislative action studied, Buckhead representative says
House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey said the GOP House leadership is exploring legislative action to rescind the Ga. 400 toll extended for 10 years to pay for Ga. 400 projects.
Lindsey (54th District), who represents a section of Buckhead, said "we're not sure what can be done at this point, but we're certainly going to take a look. We're sort of in the exploration phase now."
The State Road and Tollway Authority and the Georgia Department of Transporation board voted in September to extend the 50-cent toll, which had been scheduled to expire. The SRTA and the GDOT continued the toll until 2020 to pay for several Ga. 400 improvement projects, including connecting Ga. 400 and I-85 northbound and southbound and improving the merge lanes of Ga. 400 and I-85 southbound.
Lindsey was among several GOP House leaders who signed a letter sent to Gov. Sonny Perdue and the GDOT asking for a reversal of the September decision. The leaders want SRTA and the GDOT "to pull back and get greater citizen input before making the move to extend the tolls," Lindsey said. He said the legislators also want more citizen input "in regard to what projects will be considered."
The lawmaker said he's concerned the decision to continue the tolls will have an adverse effect on the 2012 referendum on a 1-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects.
"The larger question for me is the impact this could have on the viability of the TSPLOST initiative, whether or not this this will create greater voter cynicism about the institution of government. We can't have that. We very much need to pass that initiative."
Bonds secured by the toll continuation have already been sold for a project to connect Ga. 400 and I-85 in Buckhead, which raises legal questions about whether legislation could be passed to rescind the toll decision.
Because of the bond sale, "I'm not sure what kind of recourse they would have," GDOT counsel Jill Goldberg said Tuesday at a public information session on the Ga. 400 projects.
The Ga. 400-I-85 project is designed to reduce congestion on Buckhead surface streets and is supported by Buckhead civic organizations. Lindsey said the Ga. 400 plans are "good, important projects that will help our community, but how are we going to fund it? To go back on a commitment after 20 years without extensive public input, to make a unilateral decision to extend that toll leads to greater cynicism by voters. "