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Tolls for JTB exit hit dead end with some

6:06 PM, Aug 2, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It is one of the busiest exits on Jacksonville's roadways -- the J. Turner Butler Boulevard exit off of Interstate 95.

The traffic congestion is so bad, the Florida Department of Transportation made its improvements a high priority.

"Just take a look in the morning and in the evening," said Mike Goldman of the Florida Department of Transportation.

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority and FDOT have added lanes, but nothing seems to work to get rid of the traffic congestion. The plan now calls for a flyover as a possible solution.

Florida's secretary of transportation said the department is considering making the flyover a toll road to pay the cost of the $125 million project.

"Right now the money is not there," said Goldman. "If we use tolls as a source of those construction revenues, it might be feasible and that's what we're doing right now."

In 1989, Jacksonville voters approved raising the sales tax 1/2 a penny to get rid of tolls.

That summer, August 12, the toll booths were removed. Motorists were pleased. Tommy Hazouri was Mayor. He said to bring tolls back is like a slap in the face of taxpayers.

"Shame on them," said Hazouri, "It is called good management and keeping a commitment to the public that took a vote twenty years ago."

Hazouri has a mementos on his walls of the un-tolled joy the city celebrated. He said it was never stated that tolls won't be back, but  it was implied. Now two decades later he's disappointed.

"I think it violates the spirit of that statue to eliminate tolls," said Hazouri.

In the 2012 legislative session, HB 599 gave the Florida DOT the authority to establish tolls on new capacity roads and the widening and replacement of all major river crossings where feasible.

FDOT said the new toll systems are automated, they do not involve toll booths.

The JTA applied for a federal TIGER grant to help with the I-95/JTB project, but was unsuccessful.

Mayor Alvin Brown said he opposes tolls and believes that roads with tolls should preserve free options for local drivers.

FDOT plans to place managed lanes on Interstate 295 in 2015 and 2017 and tolls will also be established on Brannan Field Chaffee Road.

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