Florida bill dies that sought to increase turnpike tolls, among other things

| 5/13/2008

Time ran out for Florida lawmakers considering a massive transportation bill that would have boosted tolls on the state’s Turnpike. The bill included other tolling provisions along with limiting left lane use for all drivers.

The 117-page bill was awaiting final consideration before the full Senate May 2 when the regular session ended. It sought to authorize toll rates on the turnpike system to increase by 25 percent starting July 1.

For five-axle trucks, cash customers would have paid about $84 to drive the entire length of the turnpike. Those vehicles now pay about $67. SunPass users would have paid about $64, compared with about $51 now.

Cash paying passenger vehicles would have paid nearly $27 – up from about $21. SunPass customers would have paid about $21. Currently, they pay nearly $17.

Supporters said higher tolls are needed to generate revenue to widen and build more highways.

In addition to the rate increase on the turnpike, expressway authorities throughout the state would have been required to increase tolls at least every five years to keep pace with inflation.

The bill also sought to allow the state to lease from the Florida Department of Transportation for up to 50 years the part of Interstate 75 that’s referred to as Alligator Alley.

The Florida DOT unveiled plans this spring to lease the toll road to private investors. An analysis said that leasing the 78-mile stretch of interstate would earn the state $500 million for a 50-year lease.

A separate provision in the bill was intended to combat aggressive driving, or “road rage,” on the state’s multilane highways by reducing the number of drivers in the far left lane.

It called for giving law enforcement more authority to ticket drivers who block traffic, even if they are driving the speed limit in the left lane. A failure to stay to the right would have been included as one of the offenses that make up “aggressive careless driving.”

Travelers would have been prohibited from driving in the left lane of a multi-lane highway when they are about to be overtaken by another vehicle.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Florida in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor