Monday, January 25, 2010

New at PJM: Hard To Kill

I have a new column for Pajamas Media up today, and no, it's not about Steven Seagal. A preview:

Georgia State Route 400, commonly known to Atlantans as “Georgia 400,” is the state’s only toll road. The sole toll plaza on “400” was opened in 1993, on a new express extension running from the trendy Buckhead community up into the north-eastern suburbs. Like most toll roads, the pay-to-drive section of Georgia 400 was sold to taxpayers and commuters on the notion that the new stretch of highway would pay for itself, in this case at fifty cents a car.

State Route 400 quickly became one of Atlanta’s most trafficked highways, in a class with the dual interstates of I-75/I-85 and the infamous I-285 loop. All those pairs of quarters piled up, and by early 2009, the toll booths had raised funds well in excess of that required to retire the original bond issue. So in accordance with the original intent of the law that created them, the toll booths were removed around the last Fourth of July.

Whoops, sorry — that’s not what actually happened. It’s what should have happened, but true to Wilson’s famous paper, the bureaucracy that grew around the Georgia 400 toll booths did not go quietly.

In fact, it didn’t go at all. The Georgia 400 toll plaza is still running, 24-7, despite the fact that by March of 2009, the state had banked over $32 million on an outstanding debt (including interest) of $26.6 million.

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