Treasure Island bridge may soon have a toll - FOX 13 News

Treasure Island bridge may soon have a toll

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TREASURE ISLAND (FOX 13) -

The tiny beach town of Treasure Island is considering charging a toll to use its bridge system and causeway.

That would not only impact island residents, businesses and visitors, but also hundreds of homes in St. Petersburg's Yacht Club Estates and Causeway Isles neighborhoods.

City manager Reid Silverboard justifies imposing any toll on those homeowners because "their only access to their property is by the causeway and they don't contribute anything towards the operation and maintenance."

The causeway is 1.3 miles long and includes two small bridges and a draw bridge. All three were crumbling in the early 2000's and despite collecting a toll, the town did not have enough money to replace them.

The late Congressman Bill Young earmarked $50 million for the main bridge with a proviso: no toll.

But Silverboard thinks it was a gentleman's agreement between the late congressman and the former mayor.

"There's supposedly no written agreement," Silverboard told FOX 13 News, although that belief is still being verified.

"If we can move forward, I definitely intend to bring an option to the city commission for at least considering tolls," Silverboard said.

The town of 6,800 residents spends more than half a million dollars a year maintaining and operating the bridge system. It should be setting aside a similar amount for larger maintenance requirements and eventual replacement of the bridges, but so far has fallen far short of saving enough money.

The only alternative to a toll would be a significant property tax increase. That revenue source might also be challenging: Treasure Island may be one of the nation's hardest-hit communities by new flood insurance rates, which are expected to depress property values and in turn, property tax revenues.

At this point, the toll talk is just beginning.

"We're just at the baby steps of this," Silverboard confirmed. "We're trying to do it the least expensive, most efficient way and it's a very complicated thing to set up obviously, so it's going to take a while."

But the chatter has already started at Foxy's, a favorite lunch spot on Treasure Island.

"Oh, you're going to hear a lot," owner Sher Ozzie laughed. "We're not a quiet island, we have our opinions, yeah, definitely going to hear a lot."

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