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County staff considers changes in toll payment process

By Staff | Jul 1, 2009

County staffers are still thinking of changing the toll structure at three area bridges, but they have no idea how they are going to go about it.
Now they are reaching out to the community in hopes of gaining some insight into what the public wants from the process. A public hearing has been set for Aug. 11 to let residents voice their concerns over the toll changes.
Lee County Department of Transportation Deputy Director Paul Wingard said the agency is currently weighing the options, but it has yet to offer concise choices to travelers.
He said the DOT is not seeing the potential changes as a way to boost toll revenue, only to simplify an overly complex system.
“To us, this is not a toll increase, just an adjustment to the collection method,” Wingard said. “It’s a matter of simplifying and consolidating the toll structure.”
The greatest opposition to the changes have come from Sanibel, where a single trip across the causeway costs $6.
Unlimited use of the causeway for a year runs $400 and any potential changes would ultimately cost drivers less, according to Wingard.
He did not clarify how the changes would be implemented or who would receive the best value. Wingard only reiterated the changes are not driven by revenue.
“It’s not revenue neutral, but it’s more or less the same revenues for the county,” he said. “For some people it’s going to go up, for some it’s going to go down.”
Businesses on Sanibel vehemently oppose any changes.
Sanibel Island & Captiva Island Chamber of Commerce Director Ric Base said the organization plans on rolling out a program — with shirts, buttons and banners — that openly opposes the proposed changes.
“This is not neutral for residents and businesses, it’s incredibly imbalanced,” he said. “It’s only complicating the issue even more.”
Sanibel City Manager Judy Zamomra said the city has not taken a position yet, only that talks are ongoing between Sanibel and the county.
“There’s an open dialogue and we’re happy with that,” she said. “We thought the conversations have been cordial and productive, and we hope it continues to be productive.”
Lee County commissioners realize the delicacy of the situation.
Commissioner Tammy Hall suggested a town hall meeting on Sanibel prior to the public hearing. Commissioner Frank Mann said the relationship between the county and Sanibel has been positive over the last four years, and he hopes to keep things on an even keel.
“In recent years there’s been a positive relationship between the city of Sanibel and the county,” he said. “But now we have a lot of mistrust with the city mothers and fathers over there.”
As for the Cape Coral and Midpoint bridges, the number of discount programs greatly outweighs those on the Sanibel Causeway.
The Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral plans on meeting with the DOT, giving the county agency a chance to reach out to chamber members.
President Mike Quaintance said the issue is complex, but it does not look to greatly affect residential users.
“It looks like it will impact very few people in the residential area, only impacting those folks who travel on a daily basis,” he said. “One of the issues concerns heavy users, for those companies that might have trucks going back and forth over the bridges.”
Quaintance said that of the 85 chamber members polled, 55 opposed any changes, 29 said the changes are OK and one person had no opinion.
The public hearing on the toll changes will be held at 5 p.m. in the Lee County Board of County Commissioners Chambers at the Old Lee County Courthouse in Fort Myers.

County staff considers changes in toll payment process

By Staff | Jul 1, 2009

County staffers are still thinking of changing the toll structure at three area bridges, but they have no idea how they are going to go about it.

Now they are reaching out to the community in hopes of gaining some insight into what the public wants from the process. A public hearing has been set for Aug. 11 to let residents voice their concerns over the toll changes.

Lee County Department of Transportation Deputy Director Paul Wingard said the agency is currently weighing the options, but it has yet to offer concise choices to travelers.

He said the DOT is not seeing the potential changes as a way to boost toll revenue, only to simplify an overly complex system.

“To us, this is not a toll increase, just an adjustment to the collection method,” Wingard said. “It’s a matter of simplifying and consolidating the toll structure.”

The greatest opposition to the changes have come from Sanibel, where a single trip across the causeway costs $6.

Unlimited use of the causeway for a year runs $400 and any potential changes would ultimately cost drivers less, according to Wingard.

He did not clarify how the changes would be implemented or who would receive the best value. Wingard only reiterated the changes are not driven by revenue.

“It’s not revenue neutral, but it’s more or less the same revenues for the county,” he said. “For some people it’s going to go up, for some it’s going to go down.”

Businesses on Sanibel vehemently oppose any changes.

Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce President Ric Base said the organization plans on rolling out a program – with shirts, buttons and banners – that openly opposes the proposed changes.

“This is not neutral for residents and businesses – it’s incredibly imbalanced,” he said. “It’s only complicating the issue even more.”

Sanibel City Manager Judy Zamomra said the city has not taken a position yet, only that talks are ongoing between Sanibel and the county.

“There’s an open dialogue and we’re happy with that,” she said. “We thought the conversations have been cordial and productive, and we hope it continues to be productive.”

Lee County commissioners realize the delicacy of the situation.

Commissioner Tammy Hall suggested a town hall meeting on Sanibel prior to the public hearing. Commissioner Frank Mann said the relationship between the county and Sanibel has been positive over the last four years, and he hopes to keep things on an even keel.

“In recent years there’s been a positive relationship between the city of Sanibel and the county,” he said. “But now we have a lot of mistrust with the city mothers and fathers over there.”

As for the Cape Coral and Midpoint bridges, the number of discount programs greatly outweighs those on the Sanibel Causeway.

The Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral plans on meeting with the DOT, giving the county agency a chance to reach out to chamber members.

President Mike Quaintance said the issue is complex, but it does not look to greatly affect residential users.

“It looks like it will impact very few people in the residential area, only impacting those folks who travel on a daily basis,” he said. “One of the issues concerns heavy users, for those companies that might have trucks going back and forth over the bridges.”

Quaintance said that of the 85 chamber members polled, 55 opposed any changes, 29 said the changes are OK and one person had no opinion.

The public hearing on the toll changes will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 11 at 5 p.m. in the Lee County Board of County Commissioners Chambers, located at the Old Lee County Courthouse in Fort Myers.