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Garcon Point Toll To Hit $5 On Sunday

Jennie McKeon

Drivers over the Garcon Point Bridge on Sunday will have to dig a little deeper: The toll on the Santa Rosa County span is scheduled to increase to $5.

A Tallahassee judge ruled Wednesday that FDOT would have to implement a previously-ordered toll increase from $3.75.

In December, Leon County Circuit Court Judge John Cooper ruled that FDOT was required to implement the cash toll increase from $3.75 to $5 in a timely manner, but more than two months after the ruling there was no change and the bondholders went back to court.

State Sen. Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze, attended the hearing and said he believes there’s a “50/50” chance the tolls will increase by Sunday. Judge Cooper indicated he would extend the timeframe to April 1 if FDOT could give a good reason to delay the price increase.

“They had 84 days and they didn’t do it,” Broxson said of FDOT.

Broxson said he was irritated by the issue because he believed bondholders never took the opportunity to get public input on the matter.

“(Bondholders’) motivation was purely to service their debt … you can’t catch up on what’s now a $30 million debt,” he said Thursday afternoon.

Maria Cheng of MC Advisors LLC, issued a statement on behalf of the bondholders.

“Over the years, bondholders made several unsuccessful attempts to resolve this issue outside of the court by offering alternatives to FDOT, the Legislature, and other stakeholders,” she said. “One of the alternatives would have utilized the current low interest rate environment and refinanced the bonds that are outstanding. Under that scenario, tolls may not have needed to be raised and the savings would be passed on to Florida tax payers and bridge users.  However, all alternatives were rejected. The bondholders remain willing to explore these previously-offered alternatives or other reasonable solutions.”

Representatives from Florida Department of Transportation did not return requests for comment.

The rate increase will begin in time for tourism season when more people will want to head to the beach. Broxson said there’s no question the toll increase will have a “dampening effect” on the traffic. Frequent-user discounts will be in place, but tolls will only increase to $4 for Sunpass users.

Jennie joined WUWF in 2018 as digital content producer and reporter.