Orlando Toll moving to revive Wekiva Pkwy last gap in beltway - concession or toll hikes choice
By Peter Samuel
The Orlando Sentinel quotes top officials of the Orlando Orange County (Toll) Expressway Authority (OOCEA or Orlando Toll) as saying they are working on new plans for the Wekiva Parkway, a $2b 40km (25mi) highway in the northwest of the metro area, which would close the last gap in a belt route and, with a spur, make for the beginnings of an expressway west.
The Sentinel quotes OOCEA chairman and Orlando County mayor Rich Crotty: "Closing the loop is critical."
He said only tolls would fund major needed roads because governments don't have the tax money: "If we're not doing tolls, we're toast. Tolls become a bigger factor now than ever before."
They quote exec-director Mike Snyder as saying he hopes to have public meetings in February or March and a tentative financing plan within six months.
Choice - toll hikes or concession
Crotty and Snyder said the choice will probably boil down to substantial toll increases on the existing public toll system or concessioning the expansions out to private enterprise.
"We need to sharpen all these (financial) tools and see which is the best to use," said Crotty.
Scandal roadblocked planning
Planning for the Wekiva Parkway was set aside a year ago after revelations of secret payments to an anti-toll activist and upheavals which saw the chairman step down, and auditors and prosecutors all over the Authority for many months. That seems to be behind them now.
Despite the recent problems OOCEA has a history of active and innovative construction which has made a major contribution to the development and quality of life of the Orlando area. They have major construction programs in widening the 408 expressway ($640m) and providing open road toll collection through the center of all 12 mainline toll plazas in their four tollroad network.
They begin construction shortly of the Apopka Expressway formerly known as the Maitland Boulevard Extension.
They were the pioneers of electronic tolling in the state.
Toll revenue in 2006 was $193m, based on an average 807k toll transactions per day in 224 toll lanes. Their system has 59 tolling points (12 mainline and 47 ramps). The four tollroads have 160 centerline km (100 miles) mostly 2+2 lanes but widening, and 52 interchanges.
A lot of the environmental review on the Wekiva project has been done and broad agreement reached on the best route.