State Sen. Jack Latvala on Monday wrote to the Florida Department of Transportation objecting to any plan to start charging tolls on current lanes of the Howard Frankland bridge.
Latvala was reacting to recent news that state officials plan to take one of the four existing lanes in each direction on the bridge and charge tolls. Until recently, local officials understood the plan, which is part of a wider highway expansion proposal known as the Tampa Bay Express, was to add new lanes to the bridge. Those new lanes would be tolled.
Instead, FDOT planned to reduce the non-toll lanes in each direction from four to three and charge a fluctuating rate for the use of the toll lane. Latvala objects to the idea, saying it will make the commute across Tampa Bay even longer for those who can’t, or won’t, pay the toll.
Latvala’s letter to Paul Steinman, FDOT district secretary:
“I write you today with great concern about any notion or idea to take current lanes of the Howard Frankland Bridge and turn them into toll lanes. This would be an immediate impediment to creating a business environment uniting the entire Tampa Bay region. With the Howard Frankland Bridge reaching its end of serviceable years, now is not the time to take current lanes and collect tolls from my constituents who use the bridge to get to work and do not want to have their commute times increased.
“In discussions with previous secretaries from the Department of Transportation, they assured me that if express lanes with tolls were to be implemented, they would be new lanes, not taking already existing lanes and designating them as express lanes.
“This pay-to-commute-efficiently concept is counterintuitive to creating a friendly business environment for the greater Tampa Bay Region and is a proposal to which I believe my constituents stand firmly opposed. I urge you to reconsider any proposals creating tollways using current lanes and to instead, wait until additional capacity is constructed to consider that idea.”