When tolls were abolished on Jacksonville’s crossings of the St Johns River in the late 1980’s the river city became toll free. While toll roads continued to proliferate around Orlando, Tampa and southeast Florida, while bridges were tolled in the northwest of the state and in Lee County, Jacksonville remained toll free. Unfortunately that is about to change.
Last month Sun Pass put up an advertisement at EverBank Field for the Florida-Georgia game. This was not to remind drivers from Orlando or southeast Florida the value of the prepaid toll payment system but it was to promote itself on the First Coast. This is because beginning in 2016, drives in that part of the state will be stuck with paying tolls just like the rest of us.
The First Coast Expressway of which the first phase is being built currently, and the I-295 West Beltway Express Lanes over the Buckman Bridge will require Sun Pass for usage. These are just the first projects on which tolls will be brought to the Jacksonville area.
In a state with no income tax and dominated by politicians who have adopted the GOP mantra of cutting taxes leads to increased growth, generating revenue through tolling highways and the creation of Express Lanes seems to be a solution to generating revenue for the state. Governor Rick Scott has advocated more highway building which sounds rare for a Republican but has touted “Express Lanes” as a solution to many of the state’s urban transportation needs. Since it’s regressive and often hidden (drivers forget about tolls with the transponder) these tolls serve as the perfect Republican tax plan. Cut taxes on the rich and force those who need to make it to work by a certain time to pay exorbitant tolls to use Express Lanes or risk being late and eventually fired.