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County commissioners approve all-electronic tolling

New $3 administrative charge would be added for those without a transponder

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | Jun 15, 2021

The Lee County Board of County Commissioners voted Tuesday to make all-electronic tolling permanent on its Cape Coral, Midpoint and Sanibel Causeway bridges.

The plan will re-instate a $3 administrative fee for motorists who do not have transponders. The fee was suspended last year during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, there was no administrative fee for the tolls where there were toll booth clerks. Now that there are no toll booth clerks, anybody without a transponder who passes through tolls on the county’s bridges will see a $3 administrative fee.

For those crossing the Cape Coral bridge without a transponder, that would raise the cost from $2 to $5 and for those crossing the Sanibel Causeway, that would raise the cost from $6 to $9.

The $3 administrative fee will take effect in October.

The Board also voted to conduct a public hearing at a future date to be determined, to eliminate the current motorcycle toll discount. The discount is $1 to $4 depending on the bridge.

The county went all-electronic in March of 2020 when the pandemic began. Administrative fees were suspended as well.

Assistant County Manager and Chief Financial Officer Peter Winton said the toll structure will remain the same, minus the administrative fees. “What that pays for is identification of license plate, verification of license plate, invoicing and postage,” Winton said. “The goal is to make all of this more efficient,” Winton said.

In response to a question from Lee County Board of County Commissioners Vice Chairman Cecil Pendergrass (R-Fort Myers) about outreach, Winston said “I am not aware of a lot of feedback.” He said there was a town hall meeting in Cape Coral and a presentation at a Cape Coral Town Council meeting in which he said the plan was supported.

The transponders used for all-electronic tolling are available, free of charge, at www.leewayinfo.com. The transponders are attached to the windshield.

Commissioner Brian Hamman (R-Cape Coral), asked what happened to the toll clerks. Winton said the county parted ways with two clerks, while others retired or resigned. Some have been kept on for license plate verification.

Hamman also asked about whether the bridges are paid for. Winton said there is still debt remaining on the bridges. In addition, there are plans to replace the westbound span of the Cape Coral Bridge and widen both the Cape Coral bridges and Midpoint bridges to six lanes which will require new debt.

Now that all-electronic tolling will be the standard going forward, the $3 administrative fee for toll-by-plate will be reinstated in October. That means the toll on the Cape Coral and Midpoint bridges will be $2 with a transponder and $5 for pay-by-plate, including the administrative fee. Likewise, the toll on the Sanibel Causeway will be $6 by transponder or $9 for toll-by-plate.

Also – if approved after a public hearing – motorcycles will pay the same rate as standard passenger vehicles. This would begin in October. 

The county will implement a communications campaign to ensure motorists and stakeholders are aware of the changes before autumn.

In response to a question by Pendergrass about how visitors without knowledge of the increased fees who are renting vehicles will be alerted to the price of the tolls, Lee County Public Works Director Randy Cerchie said the county is sending transponders to rental companies. Cerchie said it was out of the country’s control as to how much the rental companies will charge drivers.

Lee County Commissioner Ray Sandelli (R-Bonita Springs), whose district includes Fort Myers Beach, said “it’s a safety issue.” By vehicles not slowing down to find the right lanes, he believes the tolls will alleviate traffic.

For more information on LeeWay, Lee County’s tolls program, go to https://www.leewayinfo.com.