Friday, November 24, 2017
News Roundup

Treasure Island considers causeway toll

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TREASURE ISLAND — Motorists using the Treasure Island Causeway may soon be paying a toll to cross the bridge.

City officials, anxious to find ways to increase city revenues, are investigating the possibility.

"We have bridges and a causeway that a whole bunch of people use to get to and from their houses and businesses as well as the beaches," said City Manager Reid Silverboard. "The upkeep and maintenance are very expensive. We need help in paying for it."

Mayor Bob Minning, Silverboard and other city staff are investigating the feasibility of reinstituting a toll on the causeway, probably through SunPass. A toll was charged on the drawbridge until 2007, when it was removed.

The east and west bridges at the causeway were originally built with the city's money but the drawbridge now in the center of the causeway was funded through a federal grant around 2004.

There was some discussion at the time that eventually the toll would be eliminated but Silverboard said there doesn't appear to be any written restriction on reinstituting the toll.

"Right now the 6,800 residents of Treasure Island have sole responsibility for operating and maintaining the three bridges as well as 24-hour manning of the bascule bridge along with the causeway landscaping and drainage," Silverboard said. "This (a toll) would spread the burden to all the users of the causeway."

The city puts aside $50,000 a year in a reserve fund for long-term maintenance.

But an analysis done by the Public Works Department showed that $250,000 is needed to be saved annually to keep up with maintenance and repairs.

During the last budget workshops, city commissioners agreed to a slight increase in property taxes to help pay for improvements, renovations and repairs of city facilities and equipment. But the increase resulted in only $126,000 in additional revenue.

Minning, who supports the toll idea, said a proposal will be "fully vetted" before it comes before the public for discussion.

"We are spending a considerable amount of taxpayer dollars to support those bridges," he said. "If you look at the whole picture, it would decrease taxes that taxpayers have to pay."

Silverboard said he hopes to have a proposal to present to commissioners by the time they begin budget workshops this summer.

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