Georgia develops new toll road strategy

| 11/30/2009

While Georgia has made progress from previous strategies for privatized toll roads, highway users still have reasons to be concerned according to the leadership of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is currently formulating a new strategy to incorporate public-private toll roads into its network. A public hearing is scheduled for 4 p.m., Monday, Nov. 30, as part of this process.

For those who cannot make it to the hearing, written comments are being accepted through Dec. 7.

On one hand, Georgia’s new strategy does give the state, not private-sector interests, more control over certain types of road projects.

OOIDA leadership is concerned, however, because the proposal allows Georgia to enter into non-compete clauses with private investors. Such clauses would allow toll operators to prevent the state from building toll-free roads in proximity of a privately operated toll road.

“We do not like non-compete clauses that funnel traffic onto a toll road. We’ll continue to watch Georgia closely on that,” said OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Mike Joyce.

On Nov. 4, Georgia State Transportation Board launched a rulemaking process for the state’s new strategy on PPPs and toll roads. The rulemaking includes a 30-day public review period and a public hearing.

The hearing is scheduled for 4-7 p.m., Monday, Nov. 30 at Georgia Department of Transportation, One Georgia Center, 600 W. Peachtree St. NW, Atlanta, GA 30308.

Written comments are being accepted through Dec. 7. Click here to access the online comment form. Public comments will be taken into account when the state board develops official recommendations for lawmakers. Click here to learn more about Georgia’s proposal.

According to highway funding principles developed by the OOIDA Board of Directors, the Association supports a limited role for the private sector in managing transportation assets.

For example, OOIDA is not categorically opposed to new toll roads known as “greenfield projects” as long as a project “provides choice for users, removes fees once the project is paid for, and considers state and local land rights, while limiting government taxpayer resources used to support private sector endeavors.”

OOIDA also believes highway users should be reimbursed or exempt from paying federal highway fuel taxes for miles driven on toll roads.

– By David Tanner, staff writer