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An annual bridge pass to go up 50 percent

(ran Beach, Seminole editions)

Ken Brown will be paying an additional $40 this December to renew the four annual passes that he and his family members use to cross the Causeway Bridge.

Although he doesn't like the increase in fees, he is satisfied residents will be paying it instead of tourists.

"Treasure Island businesses need the tourists out here right now to survive," said Brown, a Paradise Island resident and the newly elected president of the Treasure Island Business Association. "I would be against charging tourists right now any more to get on the island."

City commissioners on Tuesday voted to increase the cost of annual bridge passes from $20 to $30. The new passes go on sale at City Hall in December.

Drivers without a pass will continue to pay 50 cent tolls each way.

The money is expected to generate an additional $175,000 for the city's fund to maintain and ultimately replace the 64-year-old bridge. The city is planning to build a $50-million drawbridge within the next five years. Construction on the two approach bridges is expected to begin next fall.

Consultants hired by the city to study the costs for a new bridge recommended the increase in bridge pass fees. They also suggested the city raise the pass fee to $40 when the new bridge opens. At that time, they also recommend an increase in the basket fees from 50 to 75 cents.

Treasure Island collects between $325,000 and $350,000 in the sale of bridge passes each year. It raises between $1.1-million and $1.2-million from the 50 cent collections at the toll booth baskets.

City Manager Chuck Coward said the city wants to make the annual passes less attractive to tourists and visitors who pay the bulk of the causeway user fees.

Commissioners also are seeking bonds and grants to help finance the new structure.