Orlando raising tolls about a third April 5 - first toll hike since July 1990
By Peter Samuel
Tolls are going up on Orlando tollroads by about a third April 5, the first toll increase since mid-1990. Most of the toll increases are of 25c - most mainline plazas presently 75c go to $1.00. Mainline plazas with higher toll rates also rise mostly by 25c. many ramp tolls go from 25c to 50c but quite a number don't rise.
Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority's (OOCEA) board of directors this week approved a schedule of toll increases averaging about a third, the first rise in tolls in 19 years.
The first round of toll increases to go into effect April 5. (see Base 2009 + Option 1 nearby)
The board's vote also approved introduction of indexing of toll rates to the CPI or 3% for 5-yearly adjustments starting in 2012 - consistent with Florida's Turnpike. (REVISION 2009-03-02 10:00)
Operating costs cut 10%
Expressway authority exec director Mike Snyder reported than operating costs had been cut by close to 10% to adjust to declining traffic and tighter budgets.
Tolls are currently around 9c/mile for cars.
Voting on the toll increase was 4 in favor none against.
Projections by HNTB and Stantec for the Authority suggest that allowing for some drop in traffic volume from the higher tolls they should raise revenue by close to $50m/year over their present level of $200m/year
The toll increases were prompted by rising costs, a prospective slide below minimum debt coverage ratios in bond covenants and an inability to fund planned extensions, widenings and other improvements to the network.
A presentation to the board showed various scenarios for traffic depending on the severity and duration of the recession.
Revenues of OOCEA are down about 8% on year-ago numbers.
The area is hardhit both by burst of the local housing bubble and because of a decline in the tourism on which the local economy depends.
Shovel read stuff
The capital plan to be supported by higher tolls will cost $3.4b over 12 years. The largest single project is the Wekiva Parkway in the northwest costing $1.8b.
OOCEA's directors moved for a toll increase in 2006 but the then-chairman was caught in a high publicity scandal for bribing an anti-toll activist with a $107k no-work consulting contract. In the wake of that affair the board set the toll increases aside until now.
BACKGROUND: OOCEA has five tollroads totaling 169km or 105 centerline miles, a mix of 2x2 and 2x3 lane expressway. The network is one of the most comprehensive of any in a US metro area of over 1 million people.
Florida's Turnpike runs right through the Orlando area too and the Turnpike Enterprise operates several toll road segments that abut the OOCEA system.
14 mainline and about 30 pairs of ramp plazas of OOCEA do 550k transactions per day. It was the earliest system to have electronic tolling in Florida in 1994 and now has 500k transponders on issue. It is now interoperable with SunPass, the statewide electronic tolling brand.
They began full highway speed open road tolling (ORT) in 2000 at a plaza on a new tollroad (429), then embarked on reconstruction of mainline plazas one by one to provide ORT. By 2010 they should have ORT operational at all 15 mainline plazas.