More than $45 million in revenue is believed to have been lost when the state of Florida suspended highway toll collections to help speed evacuations and relief efforts for Hurricane Irma, the state's turnpike system estimates.
However, the estimated $3 million-a-day impact is not expected to hinder operations of the system or ongoing work programs, as toll suspensions or other impacts are taken into consideration for the turnpike’s annual budget. Funding over 400 full-time positions, the turnpike system is budgeted at $1.57 billion for the current fiscal year.
Tolls were lifted by Gov. Rick Scott on Sept. 5 in advance of the hurricane’s trek across Florida. Toll collections resumed on Thursday across the state, though they remained suspended on the Homestead Extension of Florida's Turnpike south of S.R. 874 in southern Miami-Dade County, as Monroe County recovery efforts continue. Irma made initial landfall Sept. 10 in Monroe County and a second landfall in Collier County before traveling north and exiting the state on Sept. 11.
As Irma approached Florida, an estimated 6.3 million people were directed through mandatory or voluntary evacuations to find shelter inland or further away. The state has not estimated how many people took to the road in advance of the storm.
The Florida Department of Transportation also suspended construction, clearing work zones to reduce traffic impacts for evacuees. The turnpike system backed the governor's toll suspension.
News source: News Service of Florida
Image source: Wayne K. Roustan, Sun Sentinel