It's been a long time coming and while some are thrilled with the July 19 , others feel it's not soon enough.
Led by Roswell resident Garland Favorito, VoterGa’s Free Ga. 400 project leaders have called for the removal of the toll since it was extended during 2010. The group presented Deal with 400 petitions on July 17 requesting that he adhere to the original Ga. 400 construction agreements between Atlanta and the state, according to a recent press release from VoterGa.
"We are encouraged that Gov. Deal has once again pledged to remove the toll so that all Georgia transportation projects are funded in an equal manner for all Georgians," Favorito wrote in the statement. "But we are cautious knowing things can change, just like before, and the new pledge may not be honored either. Toll removal also requires a vote of the [State Road and Tollway Authority] board which has not yet occurred."
The VoterGa organization is "disturbed" that Deal has said the tolls cannot come down now due to bond restrictions, calling it a "phony" excuse. The Governor said the state would pay a penalty for paying off the bonds earlier than three years after they were issued.
Favorito contends the SRTA currently has $68 million which can be used to, pay $22 million for completion of the Buckhead interchange ramps and open a trust, escrow or SRTA account to repay all $34 million bond principal and interest at any time necessary to avoid penalties
"The governor chose to continue, not suspend, Sonny Perdue’s pet projects that have nothing to do with the Ga. 400 extension and violate the original agreement with Atlanta," wrote Favorito.
He called on the Governor to sell the $10 million 17th St. property purchased with toll money under Gov. Roy Barnes in 2002, "although it had nothing to do with the Ga. 400 extension."
"Selling that property could reduce toll collection by 6 months," he wrote. "If the intent is to restore public trust prior to the T-SPLOST vote, I think he needs to be more open and honest about why the state must continue to raid the Fulton County cookie jar for another year and a half."