Dept. of Transportation secretary to propose toll authorities

Published: Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 12:31 PM.

“It’s important that we think about transportation as a regional idea,” he said. “Congestion doesn’t end at the county line.”

Another solution is to move toward more user-financed infrastructure such as toll roads — and give local governments the flexibility to build them, Prasad said.

“Tolls are user fees,” he said. “You use the road, you pay for it. You don’t use the road, you don’t pay for it.”

Prasad said he intends to propose to state lawmakers in the coming days a plan to form three new tollway authorities, two of them in Northwest Florida.

The Okaloosa-Bay Regional Tollway Authority would encompass Okaloosa, Walton and Bay counties. The Northwest Florida Regional Tollway Authority would encompass Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. The third, the Suncoast Regional Tollway Authority, would include Citrus, Levy, Marion and Alachua counties.

Prasad said his proposal needs the support of Northwest Florida and its lawmakers. He also urged officials to be willing “to use new tool boxes” and get creative with the way they finance transportation improvements.

In a question-and-answer session after his talk, he said the DOT has no plans to consolidate the state’s bridge authorities under Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise. But he noted that his toll road proposal calls for the Mid-Bay Bridge Authority to be placed under the umbrella of the proposed Okaloosa-Bay Regional Tollway Authority.

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