Most vehicles headed over the scenic Card Sound Bridge will electronically pay $1.50 tolls beginning June 2.
The new rate of $1.50 for a two-axle vehicle will apply to around 95 percent of the traffic that uses the North Key Largo bridges and roads within the Card Sound Toll Authority, Monroe County Commission members decided Wednesday.
Larger trucks and other multi-axle vehicles will pay $1 per axle.
County staff recommended a $2 toll for two-wheel vehicles, citing the need to generate money toward eventual replacement of the Card Sound Bridge.
“We have to replace the bridge in 2030, according to all current projections,” Assistant County Administrator Kevin Wilson said.
Rebuilding the 65-foot-high bridge is expected to cost around $32 million under current estimates. Revenues also help maintain four small bridges and roads in the 15-mile-long toll district.
Ocean Reef Club business owners appealed to commissioners to proposed discount rates for frequent users, citing the effect on workers who travel daily from the mainland to the North Key Largo private community. County staff suggested an annual pass costing $480 from the previous pass rate of $285.
“Business owners I’ve spoken to said their employees won’t be able to afford it,” said Ocean Reef Chamber of Commerce member Brad Copeland.
“That’s a significant financial hit for their families,” said Laura Ciampa, an Ocean Reef staffer.
Commissioners agreed to lower the annual pass rate to $360, along with a suggestion that Ocean Reef employers raise worker salaries.
Drivers who make at least 28 one-way trips per month on Card Sound can qualify for a 40 percent discount rebate on their SunPass account, which will be required for most regular users. A toll-by-plate system will bill occasional users. No cash transactions are available.
The new electronic-tolling system also will allow commissioners to raise district tolls annually.
“The whole concept of toll bridges was to place tolls to support the work that has to be done,” Commissioner Danny Kolhage said. The district “is “supposed to be financially independent. That’s how it was originally constructed, and how I hope it would be in the future.”