It’s like asking to pay more taxes.
There may be a payoff somewhere, but it’s hard to draw a straight line between the cost and the benefit.
Marco Island’s City Council received a presentation from the Collier County Metropolitan Planning Organization on Monday night and made the reluctant decision to approve a move forward with the next phase of a study that is increasingly forecasting a future of tolls to cross the island’s Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge.
“I don’t think we have much of a choice,” said Councilman Rob Popoff. “I don’t want to be tolled anymore than anyone else does, but we’re stuck in a situation where if we don’t move forward with this, we are putting our islanders in jeopardy, in my view of it.”
The presentation to the council of the Jolley Bridge Toll Feasibility Study came just 11 days before the MPO is set to receive a report on the study, commissioned to examine tolls as an alternative funding option for the replacement of the bridge.
The Marco Island City Council’s action, at the request of MPO Director Phil Tindall, recommends to the MPO board that the county proceed to the next step of the study, which examines in-depth the revenue that could be earned through tolls, and is necessary for the county or state to secure bonds to finance the project.
While the bridge is not slated for replacement until 2030, a design for the state-owned bridge is already complete and expected to cost $55 million in 2007 dollars.
And while the bridge is the top-priority unfunded project in the county, no current sources of revenue are dedicated toward paying that cost.
The motion to recommend advancing the phase two study forward hinges on a condition that the island have control of the tolls.
Tindall said the city and the MPO could have continued discussion about that condition, but he could not provide the council with an immediate answer. He said the bidding process for the second phase of the study would continue through the summer, giving the city and county enough time to continue negotiations.
“I’m against these tolls. Everybody I know is against these tolls,” said Councilman Ted Forcht. “If we’re gonna have a toll, if that’s the only way in the whole world that the grand state of Florida will replace a little old bridge over that river, the City of Marco Island has to have control of these tolls.”
The motion passed 6-1, with Council Chair Bill Trotter dissenting, stating that he believed the next step should advance immediately, and the condition over control of the tolls might slow the process down.
Though the studies and polls on the bridge have caused a fair amount of grumbling among the island’s residents in recent months, only a handful spoke at the meeting.
“Let’s back off to take time to seriously consider what we are doing,” said resident Richard Henry.
“We have heard sufficient questions on what we should be doing. We need to take these questions seriously and take sufficient time. Let’s not panic and overreact.”
The Collier County MPO board is slated to receive the presentation on the study at its June 13 meeting.