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DOT: Proposed LeeWay changes won’t impact most

By Staff | Jul 16, 2009

Fourteen percent of LeeWay customers would pay more to use the Cape Coral and Midpoint bridges, according to changes proposed for the way Lee County collects tolls.
That means 86 percent of bridge users would pay the same or less to use the bridges.
But those figures did little to convince Dale Huff, a 7-year Cape resident, that he would indeed pay less.
Huff, who is on a fixed income, uses the bridges a different number of times every week. Sometimes he has to take his wife to their doctor in Bonita Springs once a week, sometimes more.
“I was a bit put back by the number of times they say people use the bridges,” Huff said. “I felt personally assaulted … I’m not using the bridge for the sport of it, it’s a necessity. I don’t think I’m part of those who are going to be saving money.”
The crux of the changes, presented Wednesday at a meeting at La Venezia by Lee County Department of Transportation Deputy Director Paul Wingard, is to help the county simplify what it feels is an overly complex toll system.
There are currently 48 separate discount programs available through LeeWay, a factor that Wingard said makes Lee’s tolling system antiquated, at best.
The changes would do away with all prepaid programs and offer a 33 percent discount at Cape bridges, a 50 percent discount at the Sanibel Causeway and a $10 transponder, which would be similar in size and shape to a credit card.
Wingard said the discount on the Cape bridges, which comes to roughly $1.32 per trip, are based on an average user making five trips a week for 52 weeks.
He added that the changes are by no means revenue driven.
“People are assuming we’re making these changes to raise revenue,” Wingard said. “The revenue coming in remains approximately the same before and after the proposed changes.”
Most of the roughly 40 people who attended Wednesday’s presentation balked at that notion, and that the changes would help to ease congestion at toll plazas.
The sheer lack of residents and business owners who showed for the presentation alarmed Olympia Lynch, a 12-year Cape resident.
“I don’t think people know what’s happening. I think they blew it off,” she said, adding that she feels the changes would force residents to stay in the Cape.
Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral President Mike Quaintance took the opposite tract Wednesday, saying that the lack of attendees is probably indicative of the level of concern residents have for the changes.
“I draw the conclusion this isn’t going to be a significant impact, one way or the other,” he said.
One option being offered to Sanibel residents and not Cape Coral is a $400 annual cap on tolls to use the Sanibel Causeway.
Wingard said the DOT never considered instituting a cap on the Cape bridges. He explained that the Sanibel cap is the result of a decade’s old lawsuit settlement between the county and city, when Sanibel tried suing Lee County when it first proposed building the causeway.
“We’re not proposing a cap on the Cape right now, but that’s why we’re here,” Wingard said. “I can’t say we will or won’t institute one, but again, that’s why we’re here.”
The proposed changes will go before the Lee County Board of County Commissioners at a public hearing at 5 p.m. Aug. 11 at the Old Lee County Courthouse.
Wingard said commissioners could vote on the changes following the public hearing, or they could defer the vote to a different date.
For more information on the proposed LeeWay toll changes, call the Lee County Department of Transportation at 533-8580.

DOT: Proposed LeeWay changes won’t impact most

By Staff | Jul 16, 2009

Fourteen percent of LeeWay customers would pay more to use the Cape Coral and Midpoint bridges, according to changes proposed for the way Lee County collects tolls.

That means 86 percent of bridge users would pay the same or less to use the bridges.

But those figures did little to convince Dale Huff, a seven-year Cape resident, that he would indeed pay less.

Huff, who is on a fixed income, uses the bridges a different number of times every week. Sometimes he has to take his wife to their doctor in Bonita Springs once a week, sometimes more.

“I was a bit put back by the number of times they say people use the bridges,” Huff said. “I felt personally assaulted … I’m not using the bridge for the sport of it, it’s a necessity. I don’t think I’m part of those who are going to be saving money.”

The crux of the changes, presented Wednesday at a meeting at La Venezia by Lee County Department of Transportation Deputy Director Paul Wingard, is to help the county simplify what it feels is an overly complex toll system.

There are currently 48 separate discount programs available through LeeWay, a factor that Wingard said makes Lee’s tolling system antiquated, at best.

The changes would do away with all prepaid programs and offer a 33 percent discount at Cape bridges, a 50 percent discount at the Sanibel Causeway and a $10 transponder, which would be similar in size and shape to a credit card.

Wingard said the discount on the Cape bridges, which comes to roughly $1.32 per trip, are based on an average user making five trips a week for 52 weeks.

He added that the changes are by no means revenue driven.

“People are assuming we’re making these changes to raise revenue,” Wingard said. “The revenue coming in remains approximately the same before and after the proposed changes.”

Most of the roughly 40 people who attended Wednesday’s presentation balked at that notion, and that the changes would help to ease congestion at toll plazas.

The sheer lack of residents and business owners who showed for the presentation alarmed Olympia Lynch, a 12-year Cape resident.

“I don’t think people know what’s happening. I think they blew it off,” she said, adding that she feels the changes would force residents to stay in the Cape.

Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral President Mike Quaintance took the opposite tack Wednesday, saying that the lack of attendees is probably indicative of the level of concern residents have for the changes.

“I draw the conclusion this isn’t going to be a significant impact, one way or the other,” he said.

One option being offered to Sanibel residents and not Cape Coral is a $400 annual cap on tolls to use the Sanibel Causeway.

Wingard said the DOT never considered instituting a cap on the Cape bridges. He explained that the Sanibel cap is the result of a decade’s old lawsuit settlement between the county and city, when Sanibel tried suing Lee County when it first proposed building the causeway.

“We’re not proposing a cap on the Cape right now, but that’s why we’re here,” Wingard said. “I can’t say we will or won’t institute one, but again, that’s why we’re here.”

The proposed changes will go before the Lee County Board of County Commissioners at a public hearing at 5 p.m. Aug. 11 at the Old Lee County Courthouse.

Wingard said commissioners could vote on the changes following the public hearing, or they could defer the vote to a different date.

For more information on the proposed LeeWay toll changes, call the Lee County Department of Transportation at 533-8580.