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Friday August 1st 2014

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Commissioner Valentino on Bay Bridge Toll

Earlier this month, the Escambia County Commission passed a resolution opposing a toll on the bay bridge. State transportation officials invited Commission Chairman Wilson Robertson to Tallahassee this week to let him know they were miffed at the move, arguing the funds for needed improvements on the structure had to come from some where.

Commissioner Gene Valentino said this week that, while he was in opposition to a toll, he was more in opposition to not looking exploring alternative sources of funding more aggressively.

“That’s my problem,” Valentino said. “—that we rush to judgement, that the toll is the solution to everything. It’s not.”

The commissioner said the toll was an obvious option, but only one among many. He said he knew of 17 other funding possibilities—“an array of funding mechanisms”—such as federal and state highway grants or a gas-tax increase.

“In these austere times” Valentino said, “it is vital that we think out of the box and be very creative.”

In addition to being a locally unpopular move, going with a toll on the three-mile bridge could have negative consequences for Gulf Breeze and Pensacola Beach. Valentino noted that a toll could hurt areas accessed by the bridge because people may be less inclined to make the trip if there was a cost involved.

“The toll at the Garcon Point bridge has almost got them in bankruptcy,” the commissioner said.