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Broxson Enlists Governor in Fight Against Toll Hike

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The next round in the fight against higher toll rates on the Garcon Point Bridge could involve Florida’s chief executive.

At issue is a pending $1.25 increase, which would push the toll to five dollars each way. Gov. Rick Scott met last week with state Rep. Doug Broxson – a Gulf Breeze Republican who’s leading the charge against the higher toll on the bridge, which serves as a link between Milton and Gulf Breeze.

“What I did was gave him (Scott) a six-month summary of our dialogue, with all the stakeholders and all the bondholders to the trustees to the users and businesses,” said Broxson. “And told him that we’re at the brink of having a dilemma that will create an economic impact on our area that’s not good.”

The toll increase was proposed in November. Broxson sat down last month with attorneys from New York Mellon Bank – whose traffic advisor FTI Consulting represents the bondholders. They made it clear they intend to move forward with the increase. Broxson relayed that to the Governor.

“He was offended that this was happening, and pledged to send a message that these tolls should not be increased,” Broxson said.”

However, it’s unclear just what Scott can do in dealing with the privately-owned span, whose bondholders are seeking a return on their $94 million investment.

Calls to the Governor’s press office for this story were not returned. BNY Mellon also declined to provide someone to interview. In a written statement, the firm says essentially that it acts as a trustee to the bondholders – required by law to represent their interests. That also includes “requesting a toll increase if revenues are insufficient to pay debt service on the bonds.”

The higher toll has yet to be implemented – even though the investors simply need to notify the state Department of Transportation of that intent. Broxson says that shows there’s always hope for an amicable solution.

“They could have had this increased on Dec. 4. That says to me two things,” said Broxson. “One, is that they are concerned about the impact, and secondly, I think they’re beginning to look at this study that they said validated the increase, and might have some question on whether that study truly indicated the will of the users in our area.”

All other options are exhausted, says Broxson. They’re now awaiting the bondholders’ next move, on whether or not they want to maintain their investment in the bridge.

Besides the toll hike, FTI also wants to reduce the discount for those using the SunPass transponder from 50-25%. What is off the table – and likely will stay off -- is a purchase by the Florida Department of Transportation because of the bridge’s growing debt.