Roundup: Toll-free Georgia 400; toll lanes proposed for I-70 in Colorado

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A wrecking ball will soon demolish toll booths along the Ga. 400 in Atlanta, while out west an engineering group has proposed tolls on a congested portion of I-70. Following is a roundup of recent happenings involving toll roads around the country.

The Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority set a tentative date of Nov. 21 to remove tolls from the Ga. 400, and crews will carry out a $3.5 million tollbooth demolition sometime next year.

Gov. Nathan Deal announced during his 2012 campaign that the state would pay off all debts related to the Ga. 400 by the end of 2013 and remove the tolls. When Deal became governor, he also became chairman of the State Road and Tollway Authority.

According to the plan, traffic will shift to three general purpose lanes that are currently used as all-electronic toll lanes on or about Nov. 21. The agency says that once traffic shifts, a contractor will move into place to demolish the toll structures starting in January.

In the future, the Georgia Department of Transportation will maintain the Ga. 400 through fuel taxes.

The Peachtree State is forging ahead on plans to build up to 150 miles of managed lanes – i.e., toll lanes – in Cobb and Cherokee counties. Those lanes would be added to existing capacity on Interstate 75 and I-575.

In Colorado, engineering firm Parsons Corp. has submitted a $3.5 billion proposal to the Colorado Department of Transportation to create 53 miles of reversible tolled express lanes on Interstate 70 between Silverthorne and C-470. The proposal has a long way to go before it can become reality, and it involves boring more tunnel capacity at the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel, according to reports.

The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority is scheduled to begin collecting a brand-new 10-cent toll on vehicles using the Sakonnet River Bridge starting Monday, Aug. 19.

The dime fare is a placeholder, possibly until April 1, 2014, as an appointed legislative committee studies whether a previously approved toll rate of $5.25 per vehicle will take effect, change,o or be done away with. State lawmakers approved the 10-cent version in early July.

The Sakonnet River Bridge carries Routes 138 and 24 between Portsmouth and Tiverton. The state DOT completed construction in 2012 without tolls, but a law followed that transferred control of the bridge to the Turnpike and Bridge Authority.

Officials claim that without tolls, the Turnpike and Bridge Authority stands to lose $13.5 million per year.

The Texas Department of Transportation plans to add tolled express lanes to a five-mile stretch of State Highway 71 in Austin. Sometime in late 2016, motorists will have the option of paying a toll to access the elevated express lanes to avoid stoplights on the current toll-free route. Officials are projecting a cost of $141 million to build the elevated lanes, which will connect East U.S. 283 with State Highway 130.

Officials in Pennsylvania recently broke ground on the first $500 million phase of a project that will connect the Pennsylvania Turnpike with Interstate 95, and designate part of the turnpike as I-95. A portion of the New Jersey Turnpike will be designated as I-95 as well, according to a press release.

The project will relocate the eastern terminus of the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s ticket-based toll collection system to the I-95 interchange.

Toll transponders in Florida and North Carolina are now interchangeable. That means Florida’s SunPass and North Carolina’s Quick Pass now work on all toll roads in both states. Officials hope the move will lead to more interoperability among electronic toll collection systems in the region. For truckers, it could mean carrying fewer transponders.

After a 17-year break from paying tolls on a 48-mile stretch of the Massachusetts Turnpike, cars will soon be paying again.

Tolls for cars were removed in 1996 from Interchange 1 at West Stockbridge to Interchange 6 at Springfield, but a recent funding law reinstates the tolls beginning Oct. 15. Trucks have paid tolls on that stretch of the pike since 1990.

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