‘We’re No. 1:’ Florida leads nation in toll roads

Central Florida’s growth blamed for expansion of toll roads

Do you feel like you are being nickeled and dimed every time you get behind the wheel? If you use toll roads in Florida, you might be right.

Trucker Employment site, TransForce states Florida has “over 719 miles of toll roads crisscrossing the state”.

Researchers say Orange County has the most, with 150+ miles of toll roads.

UCF History Professor Jim Clark joined Matt Austin and Ginger Gadsden on Florida’s Fourth Estate to talk about why traveling on so many of Florida’s roads comes at a cost.

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Austin pointed out that just going from Sanford to The Florida Mall can cost more than $7, each way.

“(Those costs can add up) for people working for the attractions, making $15 an hour, two or three hundred dollars a month is a tremendous hit, otherwise it takes you forever to get where you are going,” Clark said.

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Gadsden said when she was growing up in a smaller town, she thought tolls were used to pay for new roads and that once the road was paid for officials would get rid of the toll.

Clark said the problem in Central Florida is that we keep growing and that new roads are being built all the time.

“These things are going to continue to be built, they need money to build them,” he said. “Florida has no income tax, no inheritance tax, so we are trying to get by on a dime here when we need a dollar, so these toll roads aren’t going anywhere.”

Clark said it all started during World War II.

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“We were the least populated state in the south and then suddenly in the 1950′s we became the fastest growing state in the nation, our population increased by more than 75%. We needed roads, we didn’t have any money and so we began this toll road business,” he said.

But the University of Central Florida History professor said one Florida city has been able to get rid of some of the expenses associated with driving.

In Jacksonville, Clark said “people hated the tolls” and back in the 1980′s “a guy ran for Mayor on a platform of getting rid of the tolls and he ran and they substituted a half a penny sales tax... and all of the tolls went away.”

“If we were to get rid of tolls, can you imagine what the EastWest Expressway Authority would be like, it would be a nightmare, it is jammed now, imagine if it were free,” Clark said.

So where do we land on this?

“As long as Florida keeps growing, we are going to have these toll roads,” Clark said.

Learn more on Florida’s Fourth Estate. You can download the podcast from wherever you listen to podcasts or watch it anytime on News 6+.

About the Author:

Tiffany produces the News 6+ Takeover at 5:30 p.m., Florida's Fourth Estate and Talk to Tom.