Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tolls on Beltway Would Be Electronic; the State Transportation Department Is Studying Tolls without Toll Booths

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tolls on Beltway Would Be Electronic; the State Transportation Department Is Studying Tolls without Toll Booths

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID BAUERLEIN

A planned outer beltway through Clay and St. Johns counties wouldn't be like the toll roads of old.

There would be no toll booths where people come to a stop and drop change into a bucket or pay an attendant. Everyone would pay electronically, using transponders stuck on the inside of their windshields. At certain points along the highway, antennas mounted above the road would send signals to a transponder, identify its owner in a split-second and automatically bill a prepaid account. Motorists would continue at highway speed the whole time.

That's the plan being studied by the state Department of Transportation for the $1.8 billion outer beltway. The four-lane highway would run from Branan Field-Chaffee Road in Clay County to Interstate 95 in northern St. Johns County.

Is there any all-electronic toll road in Florida?

Florida's Turnpike Enterprise says the upper deck of the Selmon-Crosstown Expressway in the Tampa area collects all tolls electronically. Elsewhere, the state is working to convert more lanes to electronic billing, but motorists still have a choice of paying by cash on toll roads. Other states also are working to get rid of toll booths. Illinois is tearing down toll plazas on one highway and rebuilding it to just have electronic tolls.

Why wouldn't the state want to build toll booths on the outer beltway?

The booths slow traffic and drive up costs. The highway must be widened at the toll plazas to add extra lanes of traffic, which means the state must buy more land. The collection of tolls is an ongoing cost if the state hires people at toll plazas.

States are turning to tolls as a way to pay for huge shortfalls in transportation funding, so they want to stretch the toll funding as much as possible.

How would people pay?

They would purchase a transponder, which currently costs $25, and open an account with at least $25. …

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