About a toll on U.S. 1 coming into the Keys, I believe the main question to be solved is why? All the other questions — what, when, where and how — can easily be answered.
What? A toll to pay for road improvements. The toll should be earmarked to pay for road improvements and ease traffic. If the toll receipts are designated to go to a general fund, the infrastructure will be shortchanged to pay for other stuff. A toll will garner more support if its purpose is clearly defined to pay for roads, bridges and highway safety improvements rather than a slush fund to pay for other things. The toll should not be considered punitive or excessive.
When? When the nonresidents enter the Keys only, not when they are leaving the Keys. After all, there is only one road in and out.
Where? Key Largo.
How? Toll collection technology already has a system that will allow cars to go through an electronic toll booth at 55 mph, read your license plate and look up the address associated with the car’s owner. If the car’s registration is from one of the Keys ZIP codes, then there is no charge. If there is to be a charge, it can either charge an existing Florida Sun-pass account or send a bill to the car’s owners, like most tolls around Miami.
The Keys electronic toll system should also be compatible with EZ-Pass, since nonresidents are the ones to be charged. From an EZ-Pass news release from June 21, there is a group established to negotiate inter-operability between SunPass and EZ-Pass promising a working relationship before the end of the year. EZ-Pass is the electronic toll system that works from North Carolina to Maine on the east coast but is not compatible with electronic toll systems in Florida, Georgia or North Carolina.
Why? This is the big question that needs to be evaluated along with the consequences of a toll on nonresidents. It is admirable to set up a system to pay for road improvements that is not subject to the vagaries of the state Legislature and/or Department of Transportation budgets. But would the state legislature or DOT take away money or withhold dollars from the Keys in other ways?
Phil Dodderidge, Big Pine Key