A photo of the toll booths on Georgia 400. Source: Wikimedia commons

A photo of the toll booths on Georgia 400. Source: Wikimedia commons

The long-awaited day is finally here.

As of Friday, Nov. 22, it no longer costs 50 cents to travel on GA 400.The last toll was collected at 11:30 a.m., on Nov. 22 according to our affiliate CBS Atlanta. Tolls weren’t expected to end until after rush hour, but toll booth workers were waving drivers through the plaza.

The end of the tolls has political significance, too. They were scheduled to expire in 2011 but were extended until 2020. In 2012, Gov. Nathan Deal reversed that decision, made prior to his time in office, declaring an end to the tolls in 2013. Deal’s move was widely seen as an effort to mute critics of a 2012 transportation sales tax referendum who used the previous extension of the tolls as evidence the state doesn’t keep its promises.

Voters overwhelmingly rejected the sales tax in 2012.

It’s largely for that reason that drivers may see more tolls as the state looks for ways to pay for road projects. In a recent interview with Reporter Newspapers, State Road and Tollway Authority Executive Director Christopher Tomlinson said the defeat of the sales tax didn’t settle the public debate about how to make improvements to the state’s transportation infrastructure.

“I think (more toll roads are) a possibility for two reasons,” Tomlinson said. “All the projects that were slated in the future … have two key factors that make a difference. One: They’re all additional capacity. We’re not looking at any conversion projects. Two: Where we can use dynamically priced, congestion-based tolling to help ensure those lanes continue to flow, that’s key. We’re not just doing it for the sake of generating revenue.”

While the end of the tolls will save drivers money, it will mean a loss of income for some workers at the toll plaza. About 50 jobs will be eliminated because of the closure.

Reporter Newspapers went on a media tour of the toll plaza on Nov. 19. To read more about that tour, click here.

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