Monday, September 28, 2009

GA 400 & TOLL PLAZA (Maybe is the time to close that thing!!)



Georgia State Route
400 (known commonly as Georgia 400 or just 400, read in either case as "four hundred") is a highway in the U.S. state of Georgia, concurrent with U.S. 19 from exit 4B until its terminus just south of Dahlonega. Georgia 400 goes from Atlanta, at I-85, to Buckhead, Sandy Springs, Roswell, Alpharetta, Cumming, Dawson County, and Dahlonega. Like the interstate highways, it is a limited-access road (with exit ramps instead of intersections), but unlike the interstates (which were renumbered by the GDOT in 2000), the exit numbers do not indicate mileage: they still go up sequentially one-by-one. Once 400 passes exit 17 (Georgia 306), it changes from a limited-access expressway into an at-grade divided highway with traffic lights, but still with a high speed limit of 65 miles per hour (105 km/h) and ends at the J.B. Jones Intersection at SR 60 in Lumpkin County.

Between Interstate 85 and Interstate 285, Georgia 400 is designated "T. Harvey Mathis Parkway"; upon reaching the Perimeter (I-285) and beyond, the highway is designated "Turner McDonald Parkway".



History

Original portion (I-285 to Georgia 306)

Planning for Georgia 400 began in 1954.The initial section north of I-285 was officially dedicated on May 24, 1971 and subsequent additions to the north opened in stages through 1981. The road was subsequently widened in 1989 from its original four-lane configuration to eight lanes between I-285 and Holcomb Bridge Road. The widening projects were necessitated by the massive growth that Georgia 400 brought to northern Fulton and southern Forsyth counties. In December 2005, the Georgia Department of Transportation began widening the section from Holcomb Bridge Road to Windward Parkway from three to four lanes in the northbound direction and from two to four lanes from Windward Parkway to McFarland Parkway. Southbound, the highway is being widened to four lanes between McFarland Parkway and Holcomb Bridge Road. In addition, sound barrier walls and a concrete divider in the median are also being added.

Georgia 400 extension (I-85 to I-285)

The southern section of Georgia 400 (from I-285 to I-85) was the last section to be constructed. It is the only active toll road in Georgia, after the F.J. Torras Causeway toll between Brunswick and St. Simons Island on the southeastern Georgia coast was removed in 2003.

At one time, Georgia 400 was to connect to Interstate 675 in southeast DeKalb county; however, residents in northern DeKalb did not want the highway to cut through their neighborhoods, and a freeway revolt ensued, ending when Jimmy Carter had the plan terminated while he was governor of Georgia. This freeway was to be known as Interstate 475 (a number now used for the Macon bypass), a parallel route to the Downtown Connector which is just a few miles or kilometers further west through downtown and midtown. The point where this road would have had its interchange with the also-doomed Interstate 485 (now Freedom Parkway and Georgia 10 to Stone Mountain Expressway) is now the site of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library. A later routing of I-485 would have had that number running from the Downtown Connector (I-75/85), west to the current library, then up what is now 400.

Nonetheless, the northern portion of the inside-the-Perimeter route remained alive, and after lawsuits by residents that spent numerous years in court, GDOT was able to force the extension through Buckhead. Dozens of homes were taken through eminent domain or the threat of it, and the highway was built right though the middle of formerly-secluded and forested neighborhoods. Many remaining residents now live on dead end streets with significant noise pollution or unsightly metal barrier walls.

The road opened to traffic on August 1, 1993, after three years of construction. Existing exits were renumbered up by four to accommodate the extension, which has a single toll plaza in the middle of its length. Contrary to public belief, the bonds that funded the construction of Georgia 400 south of I-285 will not be paid off until 2011. There is also currently no direct access from Georgia 400 southbound to I-85 northbound or vice versa, except by an indirect route via Sidney Marcus Boulevard. In addition, the North Line for Atlanta's MARTA system was constructed in the median from the Glenridge Connector to south of Lenox Road, and was opened on June 8, 1996.




THE TOLL PLAZA:

The Georgia 400 toll plaza, operated by the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA), collects 50-cent tolls in both the northbound and southbound directions. Each direction has two open-road toll lanes, which collect tolls at highway speeds using the Georgia Cruise Card electronic tag, and seven gated toll lanes which accept either cash or Cruise Cards. The toll facility handles a total of approximately 120,000 vehicles per day. About 37% of transactions are paid via Cruise Card. The same technology is also used by SunPass in Florida, TxTag in Texas, and PikePass in Oklahoma; however, none of these has an agreement to accept the tags of the others.



In March 2009, local TV news reports began trying to generate controversy regarding tolls on the road, since SRTA reported that enough money has been collected to pay the bonds used to construct the road (though prepayment prior to 2011 is prohibited). However, the road costs two million dollars per year just to maintain (plus occasionnal repaving), and it would cost several million more for the demolition of the toll plaza. The road would then require money that the state does not have, as it has already committed to other projects which it cannot fund. This includes the reconstruction of the tollway's northern interchange at I-285, expected to cost two billion dollars

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Laurinha said...
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