TREASURE ISLAND – City officials are still holding out hope the Federal Highway Administration will give them the thumbs-up to return tolls to the Treasure Island Causeway.
Commissioners would like to have the endorsement of the FHWA after Interim City Manager Amy Davis recently received an email from Cynthia Eisenmacher, the federal tolling program manager for the FHWA’s Center for Innovative Finance Support, listing five exceptions to a federal statute that restricts the city’s ability to toll Causeway Boulevard.
With that in mind, city leaders moved forward on a proposal by Thornton Williams of the Thornton Law Group to engage FHWA to determine if the city is able to qualify for any of the exceptions and return tolls to the causeway again.
Thornton has an extensive background with FDOT transportation and tolling issues, including providing legal counsel to the state of Florida on the SunPass program.
“In looking at this letter (from Eisenmacher), they did not go into what I would hope would be a sufficient amount of analysis of why they felt that you could not place tolls back on the causeway,” said Thornton. “I think it’s important that we understand what the options are a little more in detail.”
A recent legal opinion suggested the city get the approval of FHWA before moving forward with tolling.
Eisenmacher, in her letter to Davis, pointed out that when the city received federal funding for the bridge in 2007 and eliminated tolls, the causeway became a toll-free non-interstate federal-aid facility. “As such,” Eisenmacher said, “federal statute restricts the city’s ability to toll Causeway Boulevard.”
Eisenmacher said the five restrictions are:
• Initial construction of a new highway, bridge or tunnel.
• Initial construction of new lanes on highways, bridges and tunnels.
• Reconstruction of a bridge or tunnel.
• Reconstruction of a highway.
• Reconstruction, restoration or rehabilitation of an interstate highway, as long as the number of toll-free lanes is not reduced.
City commissioners believe they might qualify under the third exception.
Thornton is expected to get back to the City Commission as soon as possible with a cost estimate for his services.
In other action, commissioners:
• Approved six sites for study by Hard Jolly Architecture for a potential new city facility and parking garage. They are the existing city hall and police/fire site, the Community Center/Treasure Island Park site, Gulf Front Park, the parking lot next to Walgreen’s on Gulf Boulevard, the insurance company building site at 10451 Gulf Blvd., and the Bank of America building at 175 107th Ave.
• Moved forward a new fee schedule proposal.
• Renewed a property insurance contract with World Risk Management for $82,228 in fiscal 2018.
• Moved forward on a request by Ricky T’s Bar and Grille to host a celebration of life Sunday, Oct. 15 for Mike Tackley, a longtime customer of Ricky T’s who recently died.