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Howard Frankland Toll? Yes. No. Maybe some. | News

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Howard Frankland Toll? Yes. No. Maybe some.
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Clearwater, Florida -- Repairs have to be made. Construction bills have to be paid. That's why Florida's top transportation chief said the Howard Frankland Bridge could be turned into a toll road.

Commuters immediately made it clear they don't like the idea.

Neither do some businesses that could be eventually be effected by traffic changes.

But today, there was already some "lane shifting" if you will, on the idea of turning the Howard Frankland bridge into a full-blown toll road.

The money raised would fund the replacement of its northbound lanes 10 years from now.

Governor Rick Scott, in Clearwater today, said there's been no decision yet whether FDOT's budget would cover all, part, or none of the $500 million cost, and "whether it would be a part of the DOT's $7 billion year in projects or whether it would be tolled."

Other lawmakers also indicated that Transportation Secretary Anath Prasad's comments about a toll on all lanes of the span was news to them.

Discussion, as far as State Rep. Jeff Brandes (R) St. Petersburg, knew of - has been limited to express lanes.

That system would be similar to the one in South Florida where the toll itself varies with traffic congestion or the time of day.

"But I don't think anyone that I've talked to is talking about tolling the entire bridge," said Brandes, "And I think that we will always have free options on that bridge."

Another major consequence of turning the Howard Frankland into a toll road could be increased traffic on the Courtney Campbell and Gandy bridges.

The increased congestion along Gandy Boulevard could also re-kindle discussion about extending the Selmon Expressway to the Gandy Bridge.

The elevated span is something which several businesses in the area have opposed.

Ava Konstantanidis, whose family owns the Ranch House Grill near Gandy and Manhattan Avenue, said they would oppose the toll on the Howard Frankland because if it led to a raised highway along Gandy it would carry potential customers right past them.

"As you're coming off the bridge you're just going to go straight through to where your next destination is. So we'd lose all the through traffic that comes by here every day," she said.

The replacement project would be at least 10 years away, and a lot could change between now and then since FDOT's project revenues are derived largely from gasoline taxes.

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