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Florida tolls to rise June 24

When is the official date, if any, of the toll increase for the Sunshine Skyway bridge and other roadways? I've heard July 1 but haven't seen anything in print about it. That's not leaving much time for motorists to get ready. It will be some picnic to go through the tolls when this happens.

Russell Skillman

Tolls for access to more than 500 miles of Florida roads will increase an average of 25 cents beginning at 6 a.m. June 24. The toll for the Pinellas Bayway will increase from 50 cents to 75 cents at each plaza and motorists using the Sunshine Skyway will pay $1.25. According to a fee schedule published by Florida's Turnpike Enterprise, rates at various tolls for SunPass users will be lower.

The increases will affect the four toll plaza locations owned by the state Department of Transportation: the Pinellas Bayway, Sunshine Skyway, Alligator Alley and the Beachline Expressway (formerly the Beeline, in Central Florida) as well as a dozen others owned by the Florida Turnpike Enterprise, which includes the Suncoast Parkway and Veterans Expressway.

The funds raised by the increased tolls will be used to add additional lanes to the most congested roads around the state and improve interchanges. The money will also be used to convert outdated toll plazas to unstaffed automatic tolls.

The toll increases are mandated by Florida laws that call for toll rates to adjust for inflation based on the Consumer Price Index, and public hearings were held last fall to address the proposed hikes, the first for SunPass customers since 1999.

Motorists in Florida can choose from three payment options: cash, prepaid SunPass (which is not compatible with EZ-Pass used in many other states) or TOLL-BY-PLATE. Motorists paying with cash should always have plenty of coins on hand —as some plazas continue to be staffed but many have been automated. SunPass toll rates may be lower depending on the road or bridge, and require that customers use a transponder.

TOLL-BY-PLATE is an electronic toll system for motorists in Florida who don't have cash on hand or a SunPass. Here's how it works: if a vehicle passes through a toll plaza and does not make a payment via cash or an electronic transponder, a photo is taken of a vehicle's license plate and based on the vehicle's registration, the identified owner receives an invoice in the mail for the accumulated toll amounts plus a $2.50 administrative charge. Call the customer service center toll-free 1-888-824-8655 for information.

When is the work on the railroad crossing on McMullen-Booth Road going to be finished?

The recent closure of the southbound median and center lanes of McMullen-Booth Road at the CSX railroad crossing (south of State Road 590) was necessary so that repairs could be made to the fixed panels at the point where the railroad line crosses the road. The repair work on the median and middle lane panels performed last week revealed that the panels on the outside lane have also been jarred loose and damaged, a condition that has developed as heavy trucks as well as railroad cars have passed over the panels, which were installed five years ago, according to Tom Washburn, manager of Pinellas County's traffic engineering department.

Work to repair the outside lane panels will start in about two weeks Washburn said. This work will again require closure of the lane, so the suggested detour route during last week's repair work remains the same: use U.S. 19 N, Belcher Road or Keene Road, and east/west State Road 590 and Drew Street to navigate around the closing.

Email Dr. Delay at docdelay@gmail.com to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions or follow Dr. Delay on Twitter @AskDrDelay. Questions selected for publication may be edited.

Florida tolls to rise June 24 06/16/12 [Last modified: Saturday, June 16, 2012 5:30am]

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