Florida Keys commissioners consider toll on US 1

FDOT has previously opposed efforts to turn Overseas Highway into toll road

KEY LARGO, Fla. – Florida Keys commissioners have unanimously approved a resolution to explore collecting tolls on the Overseas Highway.

Monroe County commissioners approved the proposal 5-0 Wednesday during a meeting in Key Largo.

The resolution supports "a feasibility study for establishing toll lanes on U.S. (Highway) 1 coming into the Florida Keys for non-residents to offset tourist impacts, for the protection and improvement of water quality, to support infrastructure investment as mitigation against global climate change and sea level rise, and for other pressing needs within the Florida Keys."

Commissioner Heather Carruthers, who drafted the resolution, was among the five commissioners to vote in favor of the study.

According to county data, more than 20 percent of Florida Keys roadways are listed in poor or very poor condition.

"The costs of maintaining those and preserving them are very, so we're always looking for ways to fund that," Carruthers said.

Islamorada has already adopted a similar resolution.

"Somebody has to share in the cost of keeping it pristine, of restoring it and maintaining it for a long, long period of time for future generations to come," Islamorada Councilman Mike Forster said. 

Forster said he knows visitors will be hesitant to the idea of paying a toll, but he said it's worth it. He said the village has asked surrounding municipalities and the county to adopt similar resolutions.

"We have no idea how much it's going to cost, how much it's going to raise, if it's feasible and if legislatively we can actually keep the dollars here in Monroe County," Carruthers said. "That's the goal, is to make sure that we're investing in what everybody wants to enjoy."

Tolls have been collected on the Overseas Highway twice in its history. Monroe County currently operates a toll on Card Sound Road.

The Florida Department of Transportation opposed previous efforts to consider a toll road in the Keys.

"Under current federal and state law, the existing lanes of U.S. 1 in the Keys cannot be tolled," FDOT spokeswoman Ivette Ruiz-Paz told the Florida Keys News.

If approved, the tolls would only be charged to visitors and not to residents of the Florida Keys. 

About the Authors: