(Orlando, Fla. -- WMFE) A plan to expand managed toll lanes on highways around Florida is gaining support in top offices at the state and national level. This week Governor Rick Scott, speaking on a Florida radio program, said that he endorses creating more High Occupancy/Toll lanes, where drivers drivers pay a fee to use them, especially during rush hours.
Last week in Orlando, Republican Congressman John Mica who chairs the House Transportation Committee said he also wants the program to move forward. “What we hope to do is free up the inside median and the right of way and allow innovative financing plans. We have many companies that will come in and partner with the state or local governments and commissions and provide additional laneage based on toll and revenue.” Several years ago, Mica inserted a provision into federal law prohibiting any new tolls on existing interstates in his district. He says, the ban will stay, and that only new lanes will be tolled.
An expansion of Interstate 4 around parts of Orlando using the HOT Lane concept, or as it is informally called, “Lexus lanes” is being considered under a new transportation plan unveiled earlier this year by state Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad.
Florida is facing a $1.5 billion budget shortfall this year. Expanded tolling is expected to help bridge the budget gap. Florida already has HOT Lanes under the "Florida Express" program that runs on a 7.3 mile stretch of I-95 in Miami Dade County. Carpools and motorcycles don't have to pay, everyone else pays based on a variable congestion pricing scheme that rises the more crowded a lane is getting at a given time. According to a review of state DOT data by PolitiFact the lanes reduced traffic, "speeds for rush-hour traffic in non-toll lanes had improved from 25 m.p.h. to 45 m.p.h."