by: Mike Petchenik Updated:ROSWELL, Ga. —
Two years after the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) voted to extend the Ga. 400 toll for up to a decade, a Roswell activist is starting a grassroots effort to have it abolished.
“The construction costs have been recovered and surplus funds have been collected and misappropriated to other projects,” said Garland Favorito.
Favorito told Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik the original intent of the toll was to pay for improvements along the stretch from Interstate 85 to Interstate 285. Instead, he said, the state is using excess revenue from the tolls for what he refers to as “pet projects.”
“We’re essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul,” he said. “Atlanta and Fulton county residents are paying for projects that have nothing to do with that road segment.”
According to SRTA, drivers pay an average of $59,000 a day into the tolls. Proceeds are used to keep up the highway and for projects along the corridor, including a new interchange at I-85 and ga. 400.
“The 11 projects that were put out for public comment, the MARTA pedestrian and the I-85 Connector Ramps, represent a variety of multi-modal transportation improvements that are designed to improve access, safety and mobility for motorists, pedestrians and transit riders in and around Ga. 400,” said SRTA spokeswoman Malika Reed Williams in an email to Petchenik. “SRTA is committed to efficiently meeting our financial commitments to bond holders and the GA 400 Improvement Projects in ways that allow us to best support Georgia’s transportation needs.”
Favorito suggests the state take the excess proceeds from the tolls and put them into a trust to pay for the construction projects and then close down the toll.
“Our argument is you’ve already collected enough funds, not only to pay for that project, but to pay the interest on that project for the next five years,” he said. “We’re hoping to get the grassroots folks from Atlanta and Fulton to put some pressure on the governor, who pledged to take this toll off in 2010 anyway.”