Florida county offers ideas to unclog freeway, limit trucks

| 1/23/2003

Palm Beach County, FL, officials have changed their tune on how to attract more drivers to Florida’s Turnpike and relieve congestion on I-95.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization is also revisiting an idea that flamed out more than a decade ago: restricting big rigs to the right lane of the freeway.

Since November, officials have done a 180 on lifting tolls to attract drivers. Instead of lifting tolls, the board wants to give drivers free SunPass transponders, The Palm Beach Post reported. They now cost $25. The board believes the number of drivers using SunPass would skyrocket and the extra toll money would more than cover the cost.

Board members plan to present the idea to state and federal transportation officials later this month.

The board previously said they were so sure a free turnpike would help ease the area’s traffic woes that they were willing to spend $50,000 on a study of turnpike operations, the newspaper reported. But they changed their tune after turnpike officials compiled a report that showed $161.4 million in planned improvements over the next five years wouldn’t happen if the toll spigot were shut off.

The turnpike doesn’t get state fuel tax or federal highway money.

According to The Post, county officials have struggled with what to do about truck traffic on I-95 for years. In 1990, the county banned trucks from the left lane.

At the time, motorists complained that driving was more hazardous with trucks confined to the two right lanes. They said it was more difficult to enter and exit the freeway with a long line of trucks in the two lanes.