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Friday August 22nd 2014

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Chairman Wilson on Bay Bridge Toll

The Escambia County Commission didn’t score any points in Tallahassee when it recently formalized its opposition to imposing a toll on the Pensacola Bay Bridge in order to fund work on the structure. Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Presad called the following day to express his discontent.

“He was a little concerned,” said Escambia County Commission Chairman Wilson Robertson.

According to the Chairman, higher-ups at the state level were concerned that the county officials were “over reacting.” He was invited over yesterday to explain the commission’s move.

“He called and wanted me, cause I was chairman, I guess,” Robertson said.

State officials have hinted that work which needs to be done to the three-mile bridge will require a toll to fund it. Locally, it’s not a popular idea.

“I heard Gulf Breeze passed a resolution against it yesterday,” the Chairman said. “I think the city of Pensacola is considering it.”

According to Robertson, the transportation secretary told him that a toll was only one possibility being considered as a funding source. The state apparently does not have the funds to cover the project.

“They said, ‘the money has to come from somewhere and we don’t have it,’” Robertson said.

If imposed, the toll would apparently be set somewhere between 25 and 35 cents.

“But you know what happens?” Robertson said. “It could always go up down the road. We know that from the beach toll.”

The Chairman said the bay bridge project is expected to cost between $500 and $600 million, with about $350 million already set aside. The bridge has begged for attention for quite a while.

“It’s been known to be deficient for about 15 years,” Robertson said. “It’s just so expensive we’ve never gotten anywhere on it. I remember talking about it in the 90s.”

The Chairman said he has spoken to regional state legislators—specifically Sen. Don Gaetz—and feels confident that they also oppose a toll on the bridge. He remains optimistic about a free ride over the bridge well into the future.

“I just don’t think it’s gonna happen,” he said. “I don’t think the state could find it in their hearts to fund it.”