ORLANDO, Fla. — No state has more toll roads than Florida, and no part of Florida has more miles of toll roads than Central Florida.
Right now, there are two major road expansion projects underway in Central Florida, both of which are toll projects.
The new I-4 Ultimate and the Wekiva Parkway will both feature toll roads, and even after the roads are paid for, don't expect the tolls to go away. In emails to 9 Investigates, both the Expressway Authority and the Turnpike said tolls need to be maintained to pay for expansion and maintenance of roads.
In 2018, the Central Florida Expressway Authority collected $452 million in revenues, $439 million of that in tolls. The authority spent $82 million on maintenance and other expenses, $162 million on debt service, $8 million on loans and $24 million to replace reserves. After expenses, the authority ended 2018 with about $174 million.
Meanwhile, the Florida Turnpike collected $991 million in tolls in 2018, spending $185 million on expenses.
The money collected by both agencies, after expenses, are not profits, but they still have a use: new roads, new toll roads.
Senate President Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) is proposing three new roads, all to be bonded out and paid for with tolls. This comes at a time when the Central Florida Expressway Authority’s portion of the Wekiva Parkway is being paid for, in part, with existing toll revenue.
Those new roads include the Heartland Parkway from Polk County to Naples, an extension of the Turnpike from I-75 to the Suncoast Highway, and the Suncoast Parkway from Citrus County to Georgia.
While drivers might not like paying tolls for new roads, and continuing to pay tolls on roads that are already paid off , state reports show without increasing taxes, new roads wouldn’t be built and existing roads wouldn’t be expanded.
According to a report from the Florida Department of Revenue, eliminating the money collected by tolls in 2017 would have added an extra $0.181 to each gallon of fuel purchased in the state.
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