LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Lee County Commissioners approved shifting $300,000 in the county's budget to cover the unpaid tolls from out-of-state license plates.
The vote happened Tuesday and the money is available in the current budget year. But the question is—is the county losing money because of this and is there a way to recoup any losses?
If you can remember before the pandemic workers used to staff the toll booths when people would pay tolls in cash. At the bridge now it's all cameras and scanners.
"We actually did the toll before COVID and after COVID. I actually like it better,' said Waylon Boyers, a visitor from Missouri. "I go online, it’s very easy to pay. I actually found it more convenient."
The spokesperson with Lee County tells us that about 10 percent of the total traffic through the three toll bridges in Lee County doesn't get paid.
Now the County will spend $300,000 to try and get the unpaid tolls back. Here is why, in the last fiscal year which ended in September 2021, the county billed out more than $43 million coming off about 20 million cars.
This is for the Cape Coral Bridge and Midpoint bridge with a $2 toll for most westbound drivers. As for the Sanibel Bridge, which is a $6 toll for most westbound drives.
Florida is the second most visited state in the nation according to a study by worldatlas.com and sometimes those fees from out-of-towners go unpaid.
Some out towners aren't aware that Florida is a toll-by-plate state.
"Yeah, I thought it was free … I was really excited because we didn’t have to pay," said Bo Mosteller a Georgia resident visiting Sanibel beach. "I was just thinking dude I don’t have any cash on me, because I don’t carry cash. ”
The county did not have anyone available for an interview but they sent us this statement:
Lee County received more toll revenue this year than it did in any pre-pandemic year. The county is putting into place safe guards with its renewal agreement with Law Enforcement Systems, LLC , which was approved Tuesday. About 10% of the total traffic that goes through all county toll plazas results in unpaid tolls. Beginning with the new fiscal year Oct. 1, the county will be able to recover more unpaid tolls. When you go to renew your vehicle registration in Florida, for example, you will not be able to proceed until you pay any outstanding toll fees. For out-of-state unpaid tolls, the situation varies because each state is different.