"The way we're funding infrastructure now is not sustainable," Florida Secretary of Transportation Ananth Prasad said in an interview with the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville.
As other funding sources dry up, tolls will become a fact of life, he said. People are driving less, vehicles are more fuel-efficient, so fuel taxes are dropping. Meanwhile, highway construction and repair costs keep rising. Last year, the state had to cut its road construction commitments by $1.2 billion.
"The joke in our office is that we've become the department of maintenance because we don't have any money to build new roads."
Prasad has been advocating for increased tolling facilities since Gov. Rick Scott named him the state's transportation chief last year. A recent 150-page transportation bill included language authorizing the Florida DOT to establish tolls on roadways, provided that the tolls didn't take away capacity that had already existed.
The state recently announced plans to widen three sections of Interstate 295 and turn those new lanes into tolled express lanes. Future plans call for tolling portions of Interstate 4 in Orlando, interstates 275 and 75 in Tampa and extend the existing toll facilities on Interstate 95 in Miami into Broward County. All of those tolls will be new lanes, with the existing lanes remaining free, reports the paper.