Hang on to that Cruise Card.
The Georgia Department of Transportation and State Road & Tollway Authority voted Friday to extend the Ga. 400 toll until September 2020.
The tollbooths were originally scheduled to come down next year.
According to a release from the governor’s office, the SRTA board also approved a resolution to issue toll revenue bonds and establish the toll rate and toll expiration date.
Tolls set at the same rates as those in place today would pay for the new bond.
The money will be used toward improvements on Ga. 400, primarily on the toll stretch between Interstates 85 and 285, which officials said would otherwise have been difficult to fund.
A list of recommended projects provided by the state includes the widening of Ga. 400 from McFarland Road to Hwy. 20 with a third general-purpose lane. It also includes the extension of the third northbound lane from the existing four lanes to two lanes near McFarland that extend to Hwy. 20 in Forsyth.
The money could also be used to continue funding the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority’s Xpress service from Forsyth County to the North Springs MARTA rail station and direct service to downtown Atlanta from Cumming.
Forsyth County Commissioner Patrick Bell said residents will benefit from the extension.
“We’re going to receive over $10 million in improvements in the Forsyth County portion of Ga. 400,” Bell said. “Those funds are generated from tolls to maintain 400 and we get a little jaded sometimes, but the quality of 400 is pretty good. It’s crowded, but the quality is good.”
Bell said he knows of a study that shows that five to eight percent of vehicles that go through the tollbooths have Forsyth County license tags.
The commissioner acknowledged an agreement made 20 years ago stated the toll would be eliminated in 2011.
“But 20 years ago we wouldn’t have predicted that we’d be in the worst recession that we’ve seen since the [Great] Depression,” Bell said. “And I for one would rather protect the quality of Ga. 400 and make sure that we’re seeing improvements. If it gets into GDOT inventory, we’re done.”
Gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal released a statement Friday saying he disagreed with the extension.
“Ga. 400 commuters are also taxpayers like all other drivers in our state, and I don’t think it’s fair to continue to single them out for this daily fee,” he said. “It’s certainly true that this corridor has undergone explosive growth in the past 20 years, but so have many other corridors in the metro Atlanta area.”
He went on to say that all options must be considered for improving mobility in metro Atlanta as well as the rest of the state and that tolls will play a role in how needed expansions in highway capacity are funded.
Deal’s opponent, Democrat Roy Barnes, did not immediately release a response to the extension.
Staff writer Jennifer Sami contributed to this report.