Some sections of toll roads more costly than others

By Mike DeForest, Reporter, mdeforest@clickorlando.com
Published On: May 20 2014 11:15:00 PM EDT
Updated On: May 21 2014 11:22:03 AM EDT

A Local 6 investigation has identified the most expensive - and least expensive - stretches of toll roads in Central Florida.

ORLANDO, Fla. -

Drivers who use cash on Central Florida's toll roads pay an average of 16 cents per mile, according to the Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority. But that rate is accurate only if those motorists travel the entire 105-mile tollway system.

[WEB EXTRA: Most expensive stretches of tollways ]

Local 6 has identified several sections of the toll road system that cost drivers several times more than the toll agency's average, including one stretch that averages $1.67 per mile.

"Wow. That's ridiculous," said Jasmin Premchand, who thinks Central Florida's toll roads are too expensive. "I try to avoid every toll I can when I come to work."

A driver who enters the 408 East-West Expressway eastbound at Old Winter Garden Road pays $1.00 cash. The next exit, John Young Parkway, sits just one mile away. That means the driver is paying an average of $1.00 per mile.

A motorist who begins their trip at John Young Parkway by throwing four quarters in the toll collection basket and drives .07 miles east to Tampa Avenue near the Citrus Bowl on the 408 pays an average of $1.43 a mile.

A driver who uses the 408 Expressway strictly to cross the Lake Underhill bridge near Orlando Executive Airport pays the highest average cost in Central Florida: $1.67 per mile. It costs those motorists $1 to make the 0.6 mile journey between Conway Road and Crystal Lake Drive.

"I'd rather drive more than pay this much money," said Annie Khatib, who takes Lake Underhill Road around the body of water to avoid paying the toll over the bridge. The detour adds an extra minute or two to her commute.

"It's a choice," said OOCEA spokesman Jeff Marshall, who points out that the area's toll roads are designed to help long distance travelers rather than motorists making short commutes.

Local 6 found that drivers who stay on the toll roads for long stretches do pay a much lower average cost per mile. For example, someone who drives the entire 31-mile length of the 429 Western Expressway from Apopka to I-4 near Kissimmee pays $4.25, an average of just 14 cents per mile.

Florida's Turnpike costs drivers just 8 cents per mile if they travel the 265 miles from I-75 in Wildwood to I-95 near Miami. Those motorists pay nearly $21.00 in tolls for that trip.

There are some segments of the tollway system that are free to motorists. Drivers who need to get from I-4 to Orange Avenue in Downtown Orlando pay nothing despite traveling on the 408 for nearly a mile. Likewise, shoppers leaving Seminole Town Center Mall in Sanford can jump on the 417 GreeneWay at Rinehart Road at no cost for the mile trip to I-4.  And drivers can go nearly 3 miles between I-4 and John Young Parkway on the 528 Beachline without encountering a tollbooth.

According to OOCEA officials, a toll road is not designed and built to achieve a particular average rate per mile. Instead, the amount charged at each individual toll collection point is based on estimated traffic patterns, as well as the cost to repay bonds and operate and maintain the road. Geography and location of access points also play a role in determining the amount collected, said Marshall.

Drivers who use the E-Pass electronic toll payment system receive a discount on certain tolls, paying an average of 14 cents per mile system-wide, according to OOCEA. However, certain segments of the tollway system are still have a greater cost per mile than other sections for E-Pass customers.

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