A late vote Tuesday approving toll increases on State Roads 836 and 112 may be tentative.
Miami-Dade Expressway Authority (MDX) chairman Maurice Ferre said he was so distressed by the close 7-6 vote that it was possible the 13-member board may revisit the issue.
Ferre said he did not want to leave the impression of a “divided board” as the 3 1/2-hour meeting came to an end at MDX headquarters near Miami International Airport.
Ferre’s comments came shortly after board members voted, and moments after board member Maritza Gutierrez tried unsuccessfully to amend the plan with a proposal that would have set toll rates at a lower level than what was approved.
The vote was the culmination of a contentious meeting in which about two dozen speakers pleaded with MDX board members to delay or eliminate the toll increase.
“All I hear is more tolls, more concrete and more cars,” said Cutler Bay Mayor Edward MacDougall, one of the speakers who addressed the MDX board.
Carlos Garcia, co-founder of the anti-toll group RollBackTolls.com, voiced the general feeling of people who spoke, urging board members to delay the increase.
“Please hold off,” said Garcia, who like other group members wore a T-shirt with signs saying “Enough is Enough.”
Once the public hearing ended, it was clear that not all board members agreed with raising the tolls. At least one member mentioned the possibility of delaying the vote. But Gutierrez’s proposal to amend the plan was the only serious move to modify the increase.
Under the approved plan, full-fledged electronic tolling will be activated on 836 and 112 in the summer of 2014. Once that happens tolls will increase because cash will no longer be accepted and drivers will pay a toll regardless of where they enter or leave the road, or which direction they’re heading. Many drivers now avoid paying a toll because they exit before a toll plaza.
Currently, a driver traveling the full length of the 836 expressway from Northwest 137th Avenue east to Interstate 95 pays $2.
Once the new rates take effect, drivers traveling either eastbound or westbound at any point on the expressway will pay a toll because there will be no more toll plazas and toll collection will occur electronically at strategic points.
Under the newly approved rates, a driver traveling the entire length of 836 either eastbound or westbound will pay $2.40.
If there is no reconsideration of Tuesday’s action, the vote gives the green light to activation of the full-fledged electronic toll collection system on the two busy roads and removal of the toll plazas where cash is now accepted.
Tolls will be collected electronically via gantries that will be strategically placed at various points along the expressways. The gantries hold equipment that reads signals from SunPass devices in vehicles and cameras to snap pictures of tags on vehicles that do not carry SunPass.
Owners of vehicles without SunPass receive bills in the mail under the so-called Toll by Plate program.
Activation of all-electronic tolling on 836 and 112 next year will complete MDX’s ambitious program to operate all its five expressways without cash tolls.
State Road 874 and the Gratigny Parkway went electronic in 2010, as did Snapper Creek, which previously did not charge tolls.
MDX officials said the reason for the conversion to all-electronic tolling is to make sure that all drivers pay a toll.