Tolls are coming back.
The Florida Dept. of Transportation will begin collecting tolls on the First Coast Expressway in a few weeks.
This is sure to ignite grumbling by motorists, especially those who remember and disliked the tolls that were once common in Jacksonville.
Jacksonville’s expressway system pre-dated the Interstate Highway System and its bridges were financed with tolls. They were collected on the Mathews and Warren bridges, and Butler Boulevard.
For years, the expressway authority resisted ongoing efforts to do away with tolls. One argument was that bond buyers would not accept a shift to other forms of financing.
However, when calculations were done in the 1980s and it was determined that a half-cent sales tax would produce big bucks, the tolls were dropped in favor of the tax.
Tolls at the time were only 15 cents. Tolls on the new road will range from 20 cents to 85 cents.
But today drivers don’t have to stop and toss coins into a basket. They can drive through without stopping. The toll will be charged by computers, either to a pass drivers buy or based on the car’s license plate.
Drivers with a pass also will be able to use express lanes on I-295. Details are here.
You have to pay for roads, one way or another. While unpopular, tolls have one advantage. You don’t have to pay them. You can always take another route. Everyone pays taxes, including those who never use the roads and bridges that tolls finance.
Another advantage of tolls is that the people who pay to use them are making traffic on the “free” roads less congested.
The First Coast Expressway provides a quick route from Baldwin to the Middleburg area. If you need a quick route and are willing to pay, take it. Otherwise, leave earlier and take roads you have paid for with your taxes.