UPDATE: Scott’s office announced Tuesday that toll collection would resume on the vast majority of Florida roadways beginning at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 21. More details here.
Florida drivers haven’t had to pay highway tolls for almost two weeks thanks to Hurricane Irma. But now that it’s been almost a week since the storm left the state, many are curious about when they’ll have to start paying again.
As of midday Monday, though, state officials couldn’t answer — or estimate — when the tolls would be reinstated.
The decision rests with Gov. Rick Scott, who ordered on Sept. 5 that all tolls statewide be suspended “for the duration of the storm’s impacts to Florida.” Lifting the tolls cut millions of residents a break before, during and after what became the largest evacuation in Florida’s history.
Scott’s office said late last week tolls would continue to be lifted “as immediate recovery efforts” continued. On Monday, neither Scott’s office nor the Florida Department Transportation had new insight to offer, following requests from the Herald/Times.
Asked for comment, Scott’s office on Monday afternoon referred a reporter to a fresh tweet by the governor that provided little clarity to drivers’ questions of when they’ll have to pay tolls again or exactly why the tolls were still suspended.
“Tolls remain suspended as we focus on recovery efforts. We will keep all Floridians updated,” the tweet read.
Curious drivers seeking answers from FDOT’s SunPass Twitter page were met with a similar generic response from the state.
“Tolls are suspended until further notice, an updated website message will be posted on sunpass.com when tolls are reinstated,” the agency tweeted out Monday morning.
Under ordinary circumstances, the turnpike charges tolls, as do as do five expressways in the Miami area run by the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority.
Florida’s Turnpike — run by the state and one of Florida’s primary north-south evacuation routes — begins in South Miami-Dade and carves a path north through Broward and Palm Beach counties before steering northwest through Orlando and other rural parts of Central Florida and ending at an interchange in Wildwood, where the road merges with Interstate 75.
As was before the storm, MDX officials said they are waiting for direction from Scott before reinstating tolls on the roadways the agency oversees — which are some of the county’s most-traveled roads.
The agency advised Monday that drivers on the expressways may have seen the overhead strobe lights flash as their vehicles passed underneath tolling points in recent days, but tolls were not charged to them. MDX officials noted on the agency’s website the lights flashed solely because equipment was being tested for hurricane damage in the wake of Irma.
It’s unclear how much revenue Florida’s Turnpike, MDX or other regional governing boards of Florida toll roads may have lost — money that Florida drivers, in turn, saved — in the 13 days so far that tolls have been suspended because of Irma.