Tolls Gone Wild!

 How far will Governor Rick Scott, FDOT and MDX go with tolls? As far as they want to. The latest plan by Robert Poole, transportation adviser to Gov. Scott, is for the state to put tolls on non-expressway roads in an effort to reduce traffic congestion. The plan actually calls for putting tolls collection gantries for Managed Lanes (aka Lexus Lanes) on such roads as US 1, Kendall Drive and 8th Street among others, in Miami-Dade. These proposed “Lexus Lanes” would be similar to the express lanes added to I-95 a couple of years ago. ”In certain instances the plan calls for overpasses or underpasses to be built at 79 intersections on 14 major roads in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, among them Broward Boulevard, Pines Boulevard and Southwest 10th Street in Broward; South Dixie Highway (U.S. 1) in Miami-Dade; and Glades Road and Boynton Beach Boulevard in Palm Beach County.”

One burning question comes to mind: where will the extra capacity for these “Lexus Lanes” come from? Most of the proposed roads where they want to put them are already maxed out. Will this mean that we have to give up existing lanes for these new toll ways? Drivers have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in gas tax for the roads that they want to put tolls on. I’m not an accountant but this looks like double dipping to me. And as we have already seen, many people will avoid toll roads and take surrounding non-toll roads. An example of this would be the drop in usage on SR 878 in Kendall, which is down over 20%, since tolls were implemented in July of 2010.

Tollation Is Real!

When we started Roll Back Tolls back in the Summer of 2010, Miller Myers and I would joke that MDX and FDOT would someday want to put tolls in our neighborhoods and possibly on our streets and avenues. We said this in a joking way, but now we realize that they are dead serious. They really do want to put tolls where ever they can. And they want us to just shut up and pay. This is the very definition of Tollation; tolling without representation. When you come down to it, tolling is a user tax, not a fee. And we let agencies like MDX virtually do what ever they want with the millions of bond dollars they have access to. The result of this easy money is their endless appetite for more roads and tolls to pay off the mounting debt. It functions is much the same way as a Ponzi scheme and we’re the ones that will be left holding the bag when it all comes crashing down.

Since I am not a politician, I will come out and say it; why not just raise the gas tax a few pennies to raise the money the state and county needs to build and maintain roads with a portion going toward transit? The collection system is easy and in place, everyone that buys gas pays into the system and there would be no need to issue toll violations for non payers. Plus, tourist would not receive crazy toll bills upon returning home.

Or, allocate a portion of toll revenue towards the design and expansion of transit. I for one would feel a lot better about having to pay tolls if I knew my money was going towards real options in the future. Today most if not all the toll money is exclusively used for maintaining and building more roads and highways. If toll revenue could be used to pay for transit design, public education and implementation then I would say we are moving towards a better future with less wasted time sitting in traffic.

We want to know why is the state not thinking of viable alternatives to toll roads? Where is transit in this conversation? They do pay some lip service to RBT (Rapid Bus Transit) as their transit component. But this is not enough! It is time for the South Florida community to wake up and realize that building more roads and putting up more tolls will not get cars off the road. It will only increase traffic in the future. The time has come for citizens to demand that our transportation and city planners look at starting with a new, fresh approach that includes light rail, buses, trolleys, bike and yes, Metro Rail instead of roads. The tunnel vision of only roads and highways by MDX (Miami-Dade Expressway Authority) is a short sighted solution for more traffic gridlock in the future.

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