Drivers from Broward and Palm Beach counties who head to Miami International Airport or Marlins Park could pay more to get there.
The agency that runs five toll roads in Miami-Dade County is proposing new toll rates on the Dolphin and Airport expressways, two east-west highways that link Interstate 95 to the airport. The tolls would take effect in the summer of 2014, and then be indexed to inflation annually.
The new rates are part of a plan to add tolls in new locations and eliminate toll booths on both roads by collecting electronically.
The increased revenue would help finance more than $400 million in construction, including a new congestion-busting direct ramp to I-95 from Northwest 12thAvenue.
It would relieve a huge bottleneck that occurs as commuters who work in the Civic Center area pour onto the eastbound Dolphin, then have to merge across three lanes to make the current left-hand ramp to northbound I-95.
Other improvements include adding lanes to the Dolphin between Northwest 57th and 17th avenues, eliminating the left-hand exits at LeJeune Road. Construction would begin in 2015 and take about two years to complete.
Still, the idea of raising tolls doesn't sit well with some drivers.
"We're being asked if we're willing to get hit with higher tolls for sitting in traffic?" said James Camp of North Miami Beach. "We're already sitting around on those roads and fuel prices just went up 10 cents a gallon in the last day."
"No thank you. Just because we have easy electronic tolling now doesn't mean tolls should be installed everywhere," said another driver on the Sun Sentinel's Facebook page.
Officials say about 55 percent of all drivers on the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority's five toll roads pay tolls. The other 45 percent don't pay anything because of where the toll plazas are located.
"Some users pay less, some will pay the same, but everyone will pay their fair share and only for the segment of the road they drive," said Javier Rodriguez, the expressway authority's executive director.
The last toll increase on both roads was in 2008. Tolls on Florida's Turnpike and other state toll roads went up by a quarter last year at most plazas and are now indexed to inflation every year.
The authority is proposing two SunPass toll options. One option -- 30 cent tolls on the Airport Expressway and 65 cent tolls on the Dolphin -- would raise about $49 million annually. The other option -- 35 cent tolls on the Airport Expressway and 70 cents on the Dolphin -- would generate $57 million a year.
Drivers without SunPass would pay double the SunPass rate, to fund the administrative and billing charges they incur. More than eight of 10 drivers on the authority's roads use SunPass.
On the Airport Expressway, which is State Road 112, eastbound drivers currently pay $1 at the plaza just west of I-95. The proposal would reduce that toll to either 30 or 35 cents for SunPass drivers, but also add a new toll in the westbound lanes and another toll of either 30 or 35 cents in both directions near Northwest 32nd Avenue.
A driver with SunPass heading to the airport from I-95 via S.R. 112 would pay 65 or 70 cents and another 65 to 70 cents on the return trip.
On the Dolphin, which is S.R. 836, drivers now pay $1 at the eastbound plaza just west of I-95 and 75 cents in both directions just east of the turnpike. The proposal would reduce the eastbound toll to either 65 or 70 cents and add a westbound toll in the same location.
A new toll gantry with rates of either 65 or 70 cents would be erected in both directions near Northwest 57th Avenue. Ramps at Northwest 137th, 107th, 87th, 57th, 27th and 12th avenues would be tolled at 30 cents.
Drivers with SunPass who head to Marlins Park via I-95 and S.R. 836 would pay 30 cents to and from ballgames. Those headed west to the airport would pay either 65 or 70 cents, whereas now they pay nothing.
The authority's board will hold a public hearing and consider the toll increases in March. If approved, construction of the new toll gantries is expected to begin later this year.
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