Proposal could bring tolls to I-75 in southwest Florida

| Friday, March 04, 2005

The Florida House Transportation Committee has unanimously approved a bill to create an expressway authority with the power to add toll lanes to Interstate 75 in the southwestern part of the state.

The bill would allow local county commissioners to set up a Southwest Florida Expressway Authority that would have the ability to float bonds to pay for adding toll lanes to expansion plans already under way for I-75 in Collier and Lee counties.

In 2008, the Florida Department of Transportation plans to begin widening 26 miles of the interstate from Golden Gate Parkway in Collier County to Daniels Parkway in Lee County. Widening the stretch from four to six lanes is expected to take more than two years and cost $200 million.

By then, the interstate will be experiencing the traffic load of a normal eight-lane highway, said Rep. Mike Davis, R-Naples.

The Florida Department of Transportation isn’t planning to boost I-75 to 10 lanes until 2030. But the expressway authority could shave years off that date through tolled express lanes.

Both the state and federal governments would still have to approve the construction of toll lanes on the interstate, and the project could cost in excess of $770 million.

The proposal gives county commissioners in the two counties, which lie along the state’s Gulf Coast north of the Everglades, final say on any changes to the expressway authority’s power. The bill also allows Charlotte County to join the authority in the future.

HB401 passed out of the House Transportation Committee Feb. 22 and has two more committee stops in the House. Davis, the bill’s sponsor, said he’s hoping to have the bill up at its next committee hearing during the first week of the legislative session that begins March 8.

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