He announced he will have the state pay off its bond debt on Dec. 1, 2013 and the tolls will come down by the end of that year.
“Ga. 400 commuters have paid more than their fair share already, and this is the earliest we can bring it down without paying a penalty for early repayment of the bonds,” Deal said in a statement. “When the Ga. 400 toll went up, the state of Georgia promised commuters that it wasn’t forever. If we don’t keep that promise, we lose the faith of the people. We face many challenges when it comes to paying for new capacity, particularly in the Atlanta region. There are no easy answers, no secret pots of money, but it is imperative that governments build the trust of their people. As your governor, I will keep the promises I make to you.”
District 56 State Senator John Albers, R-Roswell, put out a statement short after the announcement applauding Deal for his action.
"Over the past three years, I have held forums, championed petitions and introduced legislation calling for the removal of the toll on the behalf of communities along the GA 400 corridor," Albers said in his statement. "I am pleased with the Governor’s response to these efforts and his willingness to listen to the transportation concerns of Georgia citizens."
The toll was originally scheduled to be removed 2011, after 20 years of collecting from drivers. Deal promised in his 2010 campaign to end the toll the next year but the state issued a new bond tied to the toll's revenue.
“As I have said many times before: I inherited a situation where we could not bring down the gates immediately, and we face a situation where we would have to pay a penalty for early repayment,” Deal said. “This timeline gives commuters a finish line, while still allowing us to meet our obligations. Moving forward, we’ll need to continue to work on long-term solutions to congestion in the 400 corridor. And I look forward to doing that in a transparent fashion that commuters can trust.”
The governor's proposal requires approval of the State Road and Tollway Authority.
Check back here for more details as this story develops.