Calculating tolls prompts a #backlash

Vehicles come to a standstill on I-95 northbound between the Northwest 135rd Street and 151st Street exits during rush hour.
Vehicles come to a standstill on I-95 northbound between the Northwest 135rd Street and 151st Street exits during rush hour. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Want to get readers agitated? Give them a way to easily find out how much new tolls cost them a year.

On Sunday, the Miami Herald unveiled an online calculator designed to tally how much drivers are paying in tolls on the 836 and 112 expressways. Both highways saw a dramatic expansion in tolling in November, and seven months later politicians are still feeling the backlash. Our toll calculator didn’t seem to soothe any frayed nerves.

“Complete tollshock,” Natali Latorre posted Monday on her Twitter feed, @natalichristi. “This is just another way of segregating the haves and the have-nots!”

The Herald’s Facebook page attracted its own version of road rage.

“I’m spending $25 per week on tolls, totaling $1300 per year! It’s literally highway robbery!” Marlene Bernasconi posted in a message. “And the roads and traffic are worse than ever!”

Leaders of the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, which sets tolls for the two highways and three others in Miami-Dade, say the November change mostly created a more equitable tolling system. Much of the 112 and 836 could be traveled without any fees before Nov. 15, meaning those drivers on the tolled portions subsidized improvements for stretches others could travel for free.

With the November change, tolls are now charged throughout the two highways, a practice already in effect for the MDX’s other expressways: the Gratigny, the Don Shula and the Snapper Creek.

Even with electronic-toll charges outlined in credit-card bills, some motorists apparently weren’t aware of how much tolls were costing them on a weekly basis. The Herald calculator tallies up customized toll costs for a given route, then lays out how much that trip costs after 12 months. So a $1.40 round-trip journey from the Palmetto to Northwest 42nd Avenue becomes about $360 if done five times a week, 52 weeks a year.

That sort of calculus is bound to spark sharp words on social media. Andres Acevedo, an engineer in Miami, used the calculator to figure out how much his wife gets charged commuting back and forth to her accounting job in Doral. The answer was close to $900, compared to about $260 before the expanded tolls went into effect.

“I am literally shocked!” Acevedo posted on Twitter, using the #tollshock hashtag the Herald created for the calculator.

“We did it, and we were surprised,” Acevedo said in an interview Monday. “We knew it went up. We didn’t realize how much.”

Related stories from Miami Herald