Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Simons Free Access Proposed

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Simons Free Access Proposed

Article excerpt

ST. SIMONS ISLAND -- Getting onto this barrier island can be

aggravating.

People who use the 4 1/2 mile long F.J. Torras Causeway often

can buy an annual bar-coded decal for $35.

Others fumble in pockets and pocketbooks for the 35 cents in

change to pay the toll and hope they hit the basket when tossing

the coins.

Former Glynn County commissioner Bill Dismer wants residents

exempted from the inconvenience altogether.

Dismer would, with the support of the city and county

commissioners, ask Gov. Zell Miller to give one of the $35

decals to every permanent Glynn County resident who buys a

license plate on St. Simons Island.

"Visitors from other counties are really paying a user fee for

crossing the causeway. But those of us who live here are already

paying county property taxes on our vehicles and shouldn't be

saddled with a user fee on top of that," he said .

But Department of Transportation officials say Dismer's idea

won't work because of the complicated contracts under which the

agency manages the roadway.

Although the state owns the roadway, it is not part of the

state highway system and thus is not eligible for routine

maintenance funds from the DOT's annual budget, said David

Burgess, administrator of the State Tollway Authority.

The authority leases the roadway from the DOT and collects the

toll, which goes toward maintenance and to pay off the original

construction debts and toll collectors' salaries and other

expenses, Burgess said. That lease will be in effect until 2021,

the year the debt will be paid, he said.

The public pays about $1.4 million in tolls each year, roughly

$400,000 of which goes to the debt, Burgess said.

Dismer said he wants to meet with city and county commissioners

in March to urge them to adopt resolutions supporting his

proposal. …

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