Wednesday 21 September 2011

More tolls unpopular in Georgia, USA according to newspaper

The Times Herald Editorial in Georgia USA asked if its readers would support more tolling. What drove this was the announcement by Gov. Nathan Deal announced the first public-private road construction project -- a $968 million plan to construct toll lanes on Interstate 75 north of Atlanta primarily in congested Cobb County. The project involves a managed lane system along I-75 from the SR 155 (Zack Hinton Parkway, South) interchange in Henry County north to the SR 138 (Stockbridge Highway) interchange in Henry and Clayton counties, a distance of 12.24 miles. It clearly provides a choice for motorists providing a tolled bypass to a congested section of highway, whilst relieving the untolled section as motorists choose the tolled lanes.

I-75 managed lanes
Yet check the reaction and comments to the idea under the editorial. Many simply think of it as paying twice, most don’t think they get a choice and some simply think they pay enough in gas tax that should pay for roads. It looks like some serious communication issues exist in Georgia, and the case for tolls need to be made on the basis that there isn’t enough collected now to pay for major improvements like this. As long as people have choice, tolls tend to be acceptable, but in Georgia it may be that a lot of work needs to be done to convince people.  Indeed, the paper noted not long afterwards how opposed people were to tolls.

If successful, this latest public-private road project could determine if other such projects take place around the state.  However it does appear that a vocal group are loudly against tolling in the state, which means the local DOT will have to take some efforts to demonstrate how and why tolling will be advantageous to motorists.   Not that Georgia is without tolls, as the State Road and Tollway Authority is responsible for a single tolling point on the GA 400, with the money going to pay for the maintenance and upgrade of the road, and the parallel public transport service.  Are the people commenting not users of this route, or is their experience that negative that they oppose tolls?

(Note: To avoid accusations of any form of parochialism, I will only use the term Georgia, as it stands, to describe the country.  Georgia, the state in the USA, will always be suffixed by the USA)

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