Commuters are getting soaked in Florida. It ain’t raining.

Back in 2006, the American Association for State Highway and Transportation Officials and the Federal Highway Administration commissioned Future Financing Options to Meet Highway and Transit Needs. That and other studies going back to Robert Poole’s original paper for the Reason Foundation helped set up the market priced “express” lanes all over the country.

See, highway departments have tax-driven budgets.

Every politician says “I oppose solving these problems by raising taxes.”
“The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.” –Will Rogers

Here in South Florida where 36-mile Krome Avenue project is now underway at a projected cost of $284.8 million, the Department of Transportation is always looking for ways to supplement its budget. They found it by adding toll lanes to the “free” Interstates. They call those “express lanes.” Most Floridians call them dangerous abominations.

Sen. Frank Artiles (R-Miami) filed SB 250 last month to do away with express lanes on all of Florida’s highways.

Yay, Frank!

Lane DivingThe bill will allow FDOT to collect tolls to pay off the bonds for the toll construction but the tolls must be eliminated after discharge of the project’s bond. It prohibits the creation of any new high occupancy toll lanes or express lanes. And it requires FDOT to change existing lanes so they are no longer high occupancy toll lanes or express lanes upon elimination of their tolls.

Here’s the biggie: Tolls may not be charged for use of an interstate highway where tolls were not charged as of July 1, 1997.

“The problem is government spends too much. So raising taxes is what politicians do, instead of reducing spending.” –Grover Norquist

In Miami, FDOT turned two existing lanes into toll lanes which simply shrank the highway for everyone. It was another money grab.
Miami drivers are so frustrated, the new South Florida sport is “lane diving,” that is, drivers diving in and out of express lanes.

Express Lane Accident“At any moment there is a chance that somebody is going to dive into my lane not wanting to pay the fee for the express lanes from the beginning,” Mark Kaire told WFTS in Tampa this month. The Miami attorney represents 10 clients suing FDOT; all were had accidents caused by the orange lane dividers that separate the express lanes from the regular lanes.

By the way, FDOT got it wrong another way. The “closed” signs on I-95 Express have a black background with the “No Vacancy” part illuminated in yellow lights. The trouble is, Florida highway regulatory signs must be black and white to be legal so the Florida Highway Patrol can’t enforce the FDOT request to not use the lanes.

If SB 250 is successful, FDOT will lose the $27.6 million in revenue they made last year.

I hope Florida hasn’t heard of the Alameda freight corridor plans. They charge up to $30 fees “on each container that uses or could have used the corridor.” I can just imagine the glee at that idea within FDOT.

“Let’s see. Harper drives up Krome Avenue to avoid our tolls on Florida’s Turnpike or the I-95 Express Lanes,” goes that thought balloon. “But he should take the turnpike, so we’ll deduct that fee from his SunPass.”

12,192 crashes occurred in the express lanes in Miami-Dade County alone but there were only five fatalities.

The Florida Department of Transportation, of course, maintains that the lanes are safe.

“I truly believe that it’s only a money-making scheme,” Sen. Artiles told Local 10 News. Me, too, Frank. Me, too.