Gov. Sonny Perdue is going to call a meeting of the State Road and Tollway Authority next week to consider extending the tolls on Ga. 400 to finance completion of the highway’s interchange with Interstate 85 in Buckhead, sources told Atlanta Business Chronicle.
The existing interchange, which opened in the early 1990s, doesn’t give southbound motorists heading into Atlanta on either highway a direct connection to the northbound lanes of the other road.
Business leaders in Buckhead have long complained that failing to complete that portion of the interchange hampers access to offices and retail centers in Buckhead.
The tolls that financed the extension of 400 south from I-285 in 1993 are due to expire next year when the bonds mature.
However, under the proposal to be taken up by the SRTA board on Sept. 24, the tolls would be continued in order to pay for a flyover ramp and other improvements at the 400/85 interchange, and a series of other transportation projects, said sources inside the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Although SRTA collects the tolls on Ga. 400, the State Transportation Board also would have a say on the plan. The DOT board is expected to meet minutes before the SRTA board to consider extending the DOT’s lease of that stretch of Ga. 400 to SRTA, a necessary legal step to make the plan possible.
Finishing the interchange would represent a major improvement for what has been a huge traffic bottleneck, said Sam Massell, president of the Buckhead Coalition Inc.
“It’s been our top priority to get this missing ramp built,” he said.
The state has owned the land needed for the project for years, and the necessary engineering studies have been completed.
What’s been lacking is the money to build the improvements, which is where extending the tolls would come in.
“I think the toll ought to end because we promised it would,” Massell said. “But if they need it to build this ramp, I could justify continuing the toll for that.”
A spokesman from the governor’s office could not be reached Thursday. Bert Brantley, Perdue’s chief spokesman, is accompanying the governor on an overseas trade mission this week.
A SRTA spokeswoman did not return a phone call.