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Florida will raise rates on toll roads in 2012

Florida wants an extra quarter from drivers on toll roads next year, including at the pay plazas on the Veterans Expressway and the Suncoast Parkway.

The increases will take effect by June 30. The state has to update its operations across Florida before beginning the higher charges.

Florida's Turnpike Enterprise justifies the increases, saying money for improvements has fallen behind demands. A 2007 state law requires toll adjustments based on inflation at least every five years.

Some say the toll increases present an unfair burden, especially for residents in a southern Pinellas County community who must take a toll road to and from their homes.

"It's terribly unfair and inequitable to penalize the users of the Pinellas Bayway," said Bayway Isles resident Travis Jarman. "It's the only remaining toll road in Pinellas County."

As part of statewide changes, the east and west tolls will rise from 50 cents to 75 cents for cash-paying Bayway customers, and the fee on the southern route will rise from 35 cents to 50 cents. SunPass users will pay 50 cents at the east and west routes and 25 cents at the south end.

"Why the heck do we have to pay to come home?" asked Paul Murray, president of the Tierra Verde Community Association.

In 2008, a proposal for steeper increases on tolls and passes failed, said Murray. One obstacle to raising the tolls back then was that the Legislature had to repeal state law setting Bayway tolls. Tolls at the east and west toll plazas haven't gone up since 1986. The charge for the southern route has been the same since 1962.

Opponents have an ally in state Rep. Jim Frishe, R-St. Petersburg, who opposes the Bayway increases because state law setting the Bayway tolls hasn't been repealed.

"I don't think there's going to be a Bayway increase," said Frishe. "I think their lawyers are going to run into a brick wall when they get to it. It's already in statute."

The toll increases are planned to affect roads statewide, including the Florida Turnpike and Alligator Alley.

The state says higher tolls would advance $1.8 billion in projects across the state, including widening the Veterans Expressway in Hillsborough County.

SunPass transponder owners would generally pay 25 cents less.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/decamptimes.

Proposed toll increases in Tampa Bay

The following tolls are based on a two-axle vehicle.

Toll road Existing SunPass/cash Proposed SunPass/cash

Sunshine Skyway bridge 75 cents/$1 $1/$1.25

Pinellas Bayway 35-50 cents* 25-50 cents/50-75 cents

Veterans Expressway (per toll location) 25-75 cents/25 cents-$1 25 cents-$1/50 cents-$1.25

Suncoast Parkway (per toll location) 25-75 cents/25 cents-$1 25 cents-$1/50 cents-$1.25

* SunPass and cash tolls same Source: Florida's Turnpike Enterprise

Florida will raise rates on toll roads in 2012 12/22/11 [Last modified: Thursday, December 29, 2011 4:29pm]
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