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Lee DOT tosses out proposed toll system changes

By Staff | Jul 24, 2009

The Lee County Department of Transportation has decided to drop potential changes to toll rates at three area bridges.
DOT Deputy Director Paul Wingard said the department decided to back off on its proposal following an overwhelmingly negative response from the community.
“There was a negative response from Sanibel, though we really didn’t hear a lot from Cape Coral,” he said. “I would almost guess we had more pros and cons in Cape Coral.”
Wingard headed a meeting at La Vanezia on June 15 that focused on the proposed changes.
Only 40 people attended the Cape meeting, unlike on Sanibel where the same presentation drew 350 just one day prior.
The DOT’s plan was to eliminate prepaid tolling options in favor of pay-as-you-go, discounted rates for Sanibel and Cape Coral.
The $6 trip over the Sanibel Causeway would be reduced to $3, and the $2 trip across the Cape Coral and Midpoint bridges would be reduced to $1.32, according to the DOT’s plan.
The DOT estimated that under the new plan, 14 percent of users would pay more, while 86 percent would pay the same amount or less.
The plan also proposed a cap of $400 for the Sanibel Causeway, though no cap system was proposed for the Cape bridges.
Wingard said the DOT was unable to address the “issues” that were raised at both meetings.
Wingard and the DOT said all along that the proposed changes were never revenue driven, merely an attempt to simplify what they described as an overly complex toll system.
“We went to the community and asked, ‘What does it mean to you?’ and some issues were raised,” he said. “Additional issues were raised, and some we could take care of and some we couldn’t.”
Scheduled to go before commissioners for public comment Aug. 11, the issue is now dead.
DOT Director Scott Gilbertson sent an e-mail to commissioners announcing the plans to drop the proposed changes.
“Based on the information received, it does not appear the proposed changes can be further modified sufficiently to satisfy all concerns raised and still collect the revenue needed to meet bond requirements and expenses,” he wrote.