Bayway toll hikes axed
March 20, story
Bayway Task Force seeks new funding
In this article about the Pinellas Bayway was this quote from Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey: "The residents have to understand they're going to have to pay for the bridges, maybe not in total but in some way."
I'm not sure the senator understands this statement might be misconstrued by the voters here in Pinellas County.
First, I wonder who the senator meant by "residents." Is he talking about people who live here along the Bayway, or everyone who has a domicile and comes across the Bayway to live, study, work, worship, vote or play? In either case, Bayway users already paid for the bridges though the original bond issue. Subsequently, if the Florida Department of Transportation had been responsible about managing the toll reserves and if, as is done on every other state road in the county, maintenance had been paid for out of the gas taxes that we pay, then there would have been more than adequate funding for maintenance and for the replacement bridges. Or is the senator proposing that all new or replacement bridges built in the state should be toll bridges?
Second, "residents" continually pay for our state's road system, including the Bayway. That is what gas taxes are for. There are other options, but among them, tolls are terribly inefficient.
Third, why is the Bayway the only toll road in Pinellas, and why have other bridges in the state had their tolls lifted, even as replacement bridges have been built? Why are we "special"?
The public has made it clear: No more tolls on the Bayway. The Bayway Task Force is just getting started on helping citizens achieve this goal. The Task Force will be working to help the state DOT, other state agencies, our Legislature, other elected representatives, local government and our community find alternate funding for needed bridge improvements.
In the meantime, Rep. Jim Frishe has committed to having the auditor general review the DOT's Bayway toll reserve account to determine what monies have been diverted from the Bayway to other uses. Once this review is complete, we'll be asking for legislation that will return all diverted funds to the reserve account.
Travis Jarman, co-chair, Citizen's Bayway Task Force,
Bayway toll hikes
Tolls not needed
With much pressure exerted from their constituents, Sen. Dennis Jones and Rep. Jim Frishe have withdrawn proposed legislation that would have, effectively, transferred much decisionmaking responsibility for the Pinellas Bayway toll system from our elected government officials to the Florida Department of Transportation. In doing so, both legislators would like us to believe that they saved the day.
Let's not be fooled. In fact, both of these gentlemen introduced the bills in their respective chambers in the first place. In large part, their joint decision to withdraw was the result of the loud citizen outrage expressed during the March 12 DOT meeting in St. Pete Beach (which neither one attended), the overwhelming objections they received via letters, e-mails and telephone calls, and the superb leadership and organization of the Citizen's Bayway Task Force.
There is no reason to have any tolls on the Pinellas Bayway at all. To those government officials who suggest otherwise, I would ask: "How can the tolls be eliminated on the brand new Treasure Island bridge and not on the Pinellas Bayway?"
Jay DeVita, Tierra Verde
Bayway toll hikes
When I look in the mirror at 74, I think this didn't happen overnight. The same can be said for bridges.
Aging takes time. So why weren't the Bayway tolls increased in small increments starting several years ago to provide the funds for replacement? There can be only one answer: incompetent public officials. So what else is new.
Bob Wright, Clearwater
Maybe a museum
The Times has published articles about the end of spring training at Al Lang Field. Many people are clearly mourning the loss of a big part of our city's history that began when Al Lang persuaded the St. Louis Browns to train in St. Petersburg. On the first day of spring training, Feb. 27, 1914, the Browns lost to the Chicago Cubs, who were training in Tampa and made the trip across the bay by steamboat.
But our history of spring training does not have to end. At the visioning on the future of Al Lang Field held at the Mahaffey Theater, our table lit up with enthusiasm when I tossed out the idea of creating the St. Petersburg Museum of Baseball Spring Training there. The stadium itself could remain as a venue for college and high school teams, as well as, perhaps, a home for the regional center for Little League baseball recently displaced from Gulfport. American Stage could put on its in-the-park plays there; graduations and high school band competitions could be held on the field. Our fan-friendly stadium could host exhibition games; tickets sales would help support the operation.
This museum could be the center of what would quickly be dubbed the Museum Mile. It would be a must-do stop for all the baseball fans who flock to Florida. Families would walk the same paths that Babe Ruth once did.
All this could be without taxpayer dollars, bonds or subsidies spent to put a private corporation on public land. Our environment would be preserved since there would be no need to dredge and fill in our bay, congest our landfill with the debris from two demolished stadiums or pollute our air with the exhaust of cars for 34,000 people. Our history would remain.
Think about it. The St. Petersburg Museum of Baseball Spring Training. Our rich history of baseball is celebrated and our waterfront is preserved. For all of us. Forever.
Faith Andrews Bedford,