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Georgia highway tolls may never expire

The I-75 South Metro Express Lanes opened Jan. 28. JOHN SPINK/AJC
The I-75 South Metro Express Lanes opened Jan. 28. JOHN SPINK/AJC

Credit: David Wickert

Credit: David Wickert

State transportation officials are seeking the General Assembly’s blessing for their plan to use tolls as a permanent tool to regulate traffic on Georgia’s congested highways.

On Tuesday the Senate gave its consent, approving Senate Bill 183 by a vote of 50-1. The bill grants the State Road and Tollway Authority the power to collect tolls on road projects in perpetuity, rather than letting the tolls expire once road construction projects are paid for.

In the past, the state has pledged revenue from tolls to help pay for construction projects, but promised to remove the tolls when the project is paid off. One example: Ga. 400, where – after a public outcry against plans to keep the tolls – state officials removed them in 2013.

Now Georgia uses tolls to regulate traffic as well as pay for road projects. Under a “dynamic pricing” strategy, tolls rise as traffic increases. The idea is to limit the number of vehicles in the toll lanes to keep traffic in them moving at 45 mph or more. Drivers are essentially paying for the privilege of moving faster than those in the general purpose lanes.

It's a strategy SRTA uses on the new I-75 South Metro Express Lanes in Clayton and Henry counties and the I-85 express lanes in Gwinnett and plans to use on the Northwest Corridor in Cobb County.

You can read more about the bill here.

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