• Orange County looks to protect toll funds, prices


    ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A new state transportation bill could redirect thousands of dollars of highway toll funds.

    As the bill is now written, Orange County drivers would pay only for Orange County projects.

    Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs spearheaded the proposal as a way of protecting the county's drivers from ever-increasing tolls.

    "The side of it that I'm concerned about, is protect the toll payers," said Jacobs.
    Jacobs doesn't just have the most miles of toll roads in her county, she also has the most used toll road -- State Road 408.
    "Annually we collect about $40 million in local gas tax here in Orange County. We collect $264 million in tolls," said Jacobs.
    As Orange, Osceola, Lake and Seminole counties come closer to a unified expressway authority, Sen. David Simmons is pushing a bill that would stipulate at least where part of that money would go.
    More than 60 percent of tolls are paid electronically. Orange County has the most drivers. Deciding where that money goes is it the real sticking point.
    Under current language, only Orange County residents, who pay tolls electronically in the four-county area, would have that money sent back to Orange County, regardless of where the tolls are paid.

    Simmons said the plan is just a place holder.
    An Osceola County Expressway Authority representative told Eyewitness News that, "Even though this has been characterized as a placeholder, this is a placeholder that would be very damaging."
    Osceola leaders are concerned that Orange County would take the bulk of the money, even though the future construction is in Osceola and Lake Counties.

    Meanwhile, Orange County leaders said they are concerned that toll increases would be imposed on roads like the 408 to pay for projects in other places.

    Simmons said it is still early in the process and many details have to be worked out.

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    Orange County looks to protect toll funds, prices