Monday, May 21, 2018
News Roundup

Treasure Island moves toward bridge tolls

TREASURE ISLAND — The city is moving ahead in talks to reinstate the bridge toll.

Proposals are being sought from several transportation engineers on doing an analysis that would include revenue anticipated, costs involved and ways to implement the toll, City Manager Reid Silverboard said.

"We should get them back in three to four weeks," he said.

What type of fee structure would be used and how a toll system would work will be explored, Silverboard said.

"My thought is that we would not have a traditional toll station but an electronic one similar to what is in place on the Turnpike and Selmon Expressway," he said.

The possibility that putting a toll on the bridge would create new jobs is unlikely, Silverboard said.

"Rather than hiring for a back-room operation, we would probably contract with an existing company," he said. "The whole idea is not to create expenses through the toll itself."

A system using SunPass and a license plate reader could create total automation, something the city didn't have under the original toll system, which ended in 2007.

In January, city commissioners gave the go-ahead to explore the idea of reviving a bridge toll with the aim of creating revenue to pay for the continuing maintenance costs for the east and west causeway bridges and the drawbridge.

The city puts aside $50,000 a year for bridge maintenance but an analysis by the city public works department showed about $250,000 is needed annually to keep up with infrastructure repairs.

Mayor Bob Minning said he is "waiting to see the whole picture" before he makes a decision.

So far, he has found more residents in favor of a toll than opposed, but said there is no clear mandate.

"Everyone needs to see the pros and cons of this before they make a decision," he said.

Silverboard said part of the engineer's analysis will be to look into any possible legal issues that might crop up if the toll is enacted.

"There are no specific legal issues that I know of," he said. "We are just doing due diligence to see what legal impediments there might be."

The previous toll was $1 per vehicle with a special rate of $40 annually for city residents.

"Our intent at this time is that this toll would cover operation and maintenance costs of the bridges and causeway, maintenance of pavement and drainage, landscaping and lighting costs," Silverboard said. The cost of maintaining the Isle of Capri and Isle of Palms bridges, which recently were renovated, also would be included, Silverboard said.

"Right now all of that is coming out of ad valorem and sales taxes and other general fund revenues," he said. "This would free up some money to use on other projects."

The whole process of creating a toll will be a long one, Silverboard said.

"This is going to take many months of discussion and public meetings before commissioners would be in a position to make a decision," he said. "There will be a full vetting of this whole idea."

Minning is hoping the City Commission will have some initial figures to study when its budget workshops begin this summer.

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